Oysters: the pearls of the festive table

10-06-2015 Ostréiculture en France, élevage des huîtres françaises
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Along with foie gras and scallops, oysters are a vital ingredient in a French festive feast. Surveys show that 65% of the French enjoy the famous mollusk, making France the number one country for consumers and producers: 150,000 tons of oysters are produced each year, with 75% being sold around Christmas.
Joël Dupuch, ostréiculteur dans le bassin d'Arcachon

Joël Dupuch, ostréiculteur au Cap Ferret – Crédits : Stéphane Lartigue/sudouest.fr


Profile of an oyster eater:

According to a study carried out by France Agrimer, the French consume oysters on average three times a year, eating between eight and nine oysters at each sitting (an average of 26 per year!).

There are three different profiles of oyster eaters.

–   Novice consumers (23%), who tend to be young and eat oysters at parties, more as a result of tradition than preference.
–   Occasional consumers (43%) who genuinely enjoy the product but limit themselves to occasional consumption due to the price.
–   Real fans (34%) who know the product well and are not put off by the price. They consume a large quantity of oysters all year round.

Calibers of oysters:

Oysters are numbered from 0 to 5. These numbers correspond to the mollusk’s caliber.

Oysters are calibrated by weight ,” explains Joël Dupuch, an oyster farmer from Cap Ferret. “A no. 2 oyster must weigh at least 100g, a no. 3, 75g. The smaller the number, the bigger the oyster. The number 0 is applied to all oysters weighing more than 151g. A ‘horse’s foot’ (pied de cheval,as they say in France) , for example, is an oyster weighing between 800g and 1.2kg!



70% of consumers choose no. 3, which corresponds to the average maturity of an oyster ,” explains Chantal Denis, an oyster farmer from Morbihan.

The flavor of the oyster:

The concept of “terroir” applies to oysters just as it does to wine. Those from Normandy are delicate and crisp, Vendée oysters are firm, in Brittany they are sweeter, those from the Arcachon basin have delicate and salty flesh, Languedoc oysters are tender while Corsican oysters are fleshy.
Raising an oyster takes between two and five years, ” explains Joël Dupuch. “Over time, the oyster will become fatter, firmer and tastier .”

On our oyster farm, oysters are raised in the open sea, making them more briny than oysters grown in the mouths of rivers, ” says Chantal Denis.

huitres pied de cheval

huitres pied de cheval

Cupped oyster, flat oyster:

Cupped oysters account for 90% of French production.

Cupped oysters are raised for an average of three years, which is why they are smaller than flat oysters which can take up to five years to grow ,” explains Chantal Denis.

Cupped oysters are more accessible than flat oysters due to their low flesh content. These oysters are more popular with festive consumers, who have a limited appetite but want to adhere to Christmas traditions.

Milky oysters:


It is often said that oysters should only be eaten when there is an “r” in the month (January, February, March, April, September, October, November and December) since outside of these periods, oysters develop what is referred to as “milk” but is in fact the mollusk’s eggs.

Fattened oysters – a specialty of the Charente Maritime:

Fattened oysters come from former salt marshes used to accommodate oysters for periods from a few weeks to several months. This process, called maturing, allows the oyster to turn green and improves its tastes. The technique is a condition for obtaining the appellations “Fine de claire“, “Spéciale de claire“, as well as two “labels rouge” quality assurance labels: “Pousse en claire” and “Fine de claire verte“. Figures indicate that 76% of French oyster producers mature their oysters, representing 81% of their production. The most consumed oyster in France is the Fine Claire, caliber no. 3.

huitres creuses

huitres creuses

An oyster with no special appellation will have a flesh index of less than 10%, compared with 25% for oysters with an AOC ,” explains Joël Dupuch.

Huitres plates

Huitres plates

An oyster’s taste:

Being fattened will give the oyster a slightly more rounded, sweeter taste than a fleshy oyster, ” says Joël Dupuch, “but there is no better quality indicator than quite simply your personal preference. Oysters are a democratic product, everyone finds one to suit them .”

Ostréiculture en France, élevage des huîtres françaises

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