By Erica Allen
As consumers, we have been taught for years about the health benefits of incorporating fish into our daily diets. Fish provides health benefits like omega-3 fats and is also rich in other nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium, high in protein, and low in saturated fat (Harvard, 2013). Mussels, on the other hand, are a delicacy for some and an acquired taste for others. Recently, they have become a trendy food item due to the lack of destruction their cultivation has on the marine environment. In reality the benefits that mussels have on human health and for the ecosystem are tremendous.
Mussels and oysters are known as bivalves, not fish nor shellfish. Shellfish are broken into two groups: crustacea (such as shrimp, crab and lobster), and mollusks (such as clams, mussels, oysters and scallops) (FARE, 2017). Bivalves, which are a class of mollusks, contain two shell halves connected at the hinge. Most bivalves do not move freely, and instead attach themselves to a rock or are planted on ropes for farming (Pauly, 2015). Mussels, like all bivalves, filter the surrounding water to feed, which helps to maintain a clean habitat. However, mussels will only thrive when the surrounding water is clean in the first place. The origin of the nutritional benefits they provide to humans, the omega-3s and iodines, is the microscopic plant algae known as phytoplankton that they consume as food (Pauly, 2015).
When it comes to the costs of mussel aquaculture, they are the on the cheaper end of the spectrum. Compared to finfish farming, which requires costly ingredients for feed and expensive equipment for processing, mussels grow on fairly inexpensive ropes hanging from rafts (Pauly, 2015).
As for the body builders, health conscious foodie, and those looking to improve the quality of their diet, according to the USDA a 3oz mussel contains around 20 grams of protein (USDA, 2017). Even vegans, those who do not eat any animal products, have been open to eating mussels since they are high in protein and grow like a plant (The Washington Post, 2016). For developing nations who lack proper protein in their diet, this could be revolutionary! And for Americans who want to engage in more ocean-friendly practices but continue eating seafood, mussels are the way of the future.