Omega Seafood offers and exports all natural, lightly cooked shellfish

If you’re ordering Greenshell mussels at a restaurant near you, there’s a high chance they’re from the Marlborough Sounds and processed by family-owned and operated business Omega Seafood. Marlborough-grown Greenshell mussels are the top gourmet shellfish product purchased by New Zealand Foodservice which supplies restaurants and cafes throughout the country.

Processed by Omega Seafood, the shellfish are scrubbed, cleaned and cooked in shell in their natural juices. These are vacuum-packed in pouches to ensure a long shelf life. The company processes small to medium-grade mussels for a convenient mouth-sized morsel. Omega Seafood’s marketing and sales manager Lizzie Redwood says the smaller mussels are much sweeter and the ideal size for restaurant and home chefs to cook with.

“Providing chefs with high-quality and conveniently packaged seafood makes mussels a really attractive product. New Zealand Greenshell mussels are the biggest in the world and the smaller-sized shells we use were once considered a waste product in the industry,” says Lizzie. “We cook them as whole shells and in their own natural juices, so the shellfish tastes fresh, juicy and delicious. The whole shell actually protects the meat from drying out and keeps the mussels taste succulent and tender.”

“Greenshell mussels are endemic to New Zealand, and they’re a real superfood, high in iron and protein. They’re good for you and the environment as they filter feed and help clean the ocean as they grow.” Marlborough Sounds is home to 80% of the country’s Greenshell mussel farms as the sheltered bays provide ideal growing conditions. Rough seas and strong tides cause the shellfish to close and stop feeding.

Omega Seafood’s marketing and sales manager Lizzie Redwood and family.

“We now export 80% of our products across the globe, with our biggest markets being the USA and China.”

Lizzie’s father, Chris Redwood, grew up on Forsyth Island in the outer Marlborough Sounds and diversified into mussel farming in the late 1970s to make use of his farm’s flattest paddock, the ocean. The farm sold live mussels in bulk bags across the local market like the Wellington fish market, until 2003 when the family established their own processing plant at Riverlands near Blenheim.

Omega Seafood now processes mussels from farms throughout the sounds alongside harvesting their own farms around Forsyth Island and the outer heads. “With share farming, we can process mussels all year round. We harvest full-time from September to June, and over the winter, the mussels are spawning and left alone.”

“We now export 80% of our products across the globe, with our biggest markets being the USA and China, mainly to restaurants as chefs love the convenience and quality. It seems most people prefer a chef to prepare mussels rather than cook them at home, but COVID was a great example of why you don’t want all your eggs in one basket. We went from a full order book to zero,” recalls Lizzie.

As a result, the gourmet mussels can now be purchased in select supermarkets throughout New Zealand and are sold online through Saltwater Seafoods which offers next-day delivery. There is also a new retail focus across Omega’s export markets with large retailers coming on board. Omega Seafood also processes and retails Littleneck Clams sourced from wild catch, quota-managed fisheries near Dunedin.

“Our aim is to create all-natural, lightly cooked shellfish that can be eaten straight from the pack or used anywhere live shellfish would normally be used. We take nature and make it safer and more convenient.”

© Waterford Press Ltd 2024 – Independent Print Media New Zealand

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