Learn about oysters as food

The Anatomy of an Oyster

The Anatomy of an Oyster


Species Characteristics


A large, fast-growing, cupped oyster with a deep, elongated and often irregular shell. The thick shell varies from muddy brown to light gray. Suspended culture produces a fluted shell; intertidal, an smooth one. The oyster can grow to over 12 inches but is normally harvested at 6 inches or less. Originally from Japan it is now the most widely cultured oyster in the world. Like Atlantic oysters, names of Pacific oysters vary region to region.


Vancouver Island to California, plus Alaska, France, Korea, Japan, New Zealand, Australia and Chile.

Harvest Method

Farm-raised in two main techniques: bottom culture, using natural spat or hatchery seed or sets, and off bottom culture with long lines, racks, rafts and poles.



Pacific oysters are available year-round. They are mostly live or fresh-shucked, though in-shell frozen, frozen meats and smoked meats are available. Meats normally run from extra-small (more than 144/ gal.) to large (not over 64/gal.)

Quality Control

Oysters submerged their full life tend to have softer shells than those hardened by exposure to wind and tide.

Handling & Storing

To keep oysters alive, place them cupped shell down in an open container in the cooler (342 to 452 F.) and cover with a clean wet towel to prevent them from drying out. Do not store in a bucket of water, plastic bag or airtight container. Live oysters should tightly close when tapped. Properly refrigerated oysters will stay alive 7-10 days after harvest. Shucked meats keep 2 weeks.

Special Conditions

Persons in high-risk health categories should not eat raw shellfish, especially oysters. Also, it is recommended shellfish be cooked thoroughly during the warm summer months, to reduce the possibility of illness from a naturally occurring bacteria, known as Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Shellfish growers in the State of Washington, are closely monitored by the Department of Health who inform growers to halt harvest and sale of shellfish if harmful conditions exist.

Oysterville Sea Farms oysters begin life as natural spat and are raised both bottom and off bottom, in Willapa Bay. Most are harvested after about 3-5 years growth. They are handpicked daily, at low tide, then washed and sorted by size. We sell them by the dozen, counted to order, with your choice of small or medium. The oysters vary naturally in size, color, texture, flavor and availability, according to season and conditions. We enjoy these distinctions and hope you will, too.

Pacific Oysters, Crassostrea gigas

Pacific Oyster,
Crassostrea gigas