A Day of Learning About MD Crab & Oysters: MD Seafood

Would you take a day off work and wake up at 6 am to learn about MD crab and oysters?

What if that would involve eating incredibly fresh crabmeat and oysters?

When presented with such an opportunity I said YES.

The truth is, I had no idea exactly what I was signing up for when my friend Cecilia asked if I'd like to join her on a tour led by Steve Vilnit who is a Fisheries Marketing Director for the MD DNR Fisheries Service.

Steve leads educational tours mainly focused on encouraging local chefs to use MD seafood in their restaurants through the True Blue program.

On this particular tour, we got to visit The J.M. Clayton Company and Choptank Sweets.

Quite frankly, I was overwhelmed with the amount of information and did my best to take notes to share with y'all ;)

Hint: I ♥ed this adventure! {photo by Cecilia}

And now, it's time to LEARN!


Did you know female crab have red tips on their claws and that their apron, the hard underside of the belly, is in the form of the capitol building?

Crab typically mate once a month during the full moon through September and go into hibernation in December.

Did you know crab crawls backward? That's how crab get caught in the baskets {see below}. Once in, they can't get out! Sad for them, lucky for us.

The crab gets steamed before it goes through the process of separating meat from the shell. You will never ever be guaranteed to have 100% shell-free crab.

Only a very small amount of the processing is done by the machines: it's loud and you can feel the ground vibrating. Then the "cleaned" crab gets inspected by the humans.

It's remarkable that 99% of crab gets picked by humans. Each picker is assigned a number which goes on the bottom of the can the crab gets packed in. Some of these women have been working in this facility since they were teenagers.

JM Clayton also employs many seasonal pickers from Mexico who come on a special visa and get housing provided for them. Some of these people have been coming back fo the last 13 years. For each Mexican picker, there are 2.5 American jobs being created!

Some of the crab claws get hand picked and are sold separately. Clearly, that's more expensive, about $11 per pound compared to $5 per pound for machine picked claws. 

Each crab has only two jumbo lumps and it takes 30-40 pounds of crab to get one pound of jumbo lump!

Fresh crab lasts about 10 days to 2 weeks, but pasteurized crab lasts at least a 18 months. JM Clayton always has pasteurized crab available in case of unexpected shortages due to hurricanes and other weather related conditions.

It is now required for each container of crab to have the country of origin listed, not just the place where the crab was packed.

And now time for OYSTERS!


Choptank Oyster Company owns 4 acres of "land" and has 8-10  million oysters!

It takes 2 seasons, about 2 years, for oysters to grow before they are ready for consumption. During that time, the shell grows out and also becomes thicker. 

The old saying about not eating oysters during the month ending on a letter r, is just not true.

When breeding oysters, you can specify which attributes you would want to end up with: size, the shape of the shell, etc. According to Steve, "The size/shape of the shell depends on the water it is grown in as well as what you do to the oysters (such as tumbling them to chip the edges)."

Did you know oysters eat algae, thereby cleaning/filtering the water? In fact, shellfish farming, which includues oyster farming, is the most sustainable form of farming!

If you are thinking about having your own oyster farm, be ready to have quite a bit of $$. The start up costs are high and you will get very little,if any, return during the first two years while the oysters are growing.

Steve came up with an awesome combination to put all of our lessons together: fresh oyster topped with crab, Old Bay and sriracha. I'm not going to tell you how many I ate because I did not count. Let's just say I was beyond happy.

This was a fantastic way to spend a day. I hope you enjoyed the photos and learned a few new facts.

Special THANK YOU to Steve for reading through my post before I hit publish and making sure all information was correct!

Next time you order your seafood at a DC area restaurant, ask if they participate in the True Blue program.

Now go and eat some crab cakes and slurp those oysters!


Krissy @ Make it Naked said...

Awesome! I so want to do this with you next year! I have mad crab picking skills growing up at the beach. Haha.

Belinda @zomppa said...

How awesome! Heck yeah I'd be up with you!!! What great fun - love the sriracha.

Dannii @Hungry Healthy Happy said...

I love sriracha!

Mariya said...


Evi said...

A little behind on my blog reading, but great post! Sounds like a perfect day off of work! =)