Do Not Read This Post If You Love Eating Oysters

oyster facts

If you truly love and enjoy eating oysters, then, well, you might want to stop reading this right about now. Unless, you know, you like knowing exactly what’s going on with the food you’re consuming — in that case, you should keep going, because there is one fact about oysters that is going to blow your mind. Not in a good way. Sorry in advance!

You probably know that when eating an oyster, you’re eating something that was once alive. Well… that’s not exactly true. Oysters are actually alive when you eat them; as in breathing and everything. In fact, they have to be alive when you’re eating them, or you’re probably going to get very sick.

While this isn’t exactly new information (it comes from an Insider article from 2016), it’s still worth pointing out. Here’s the deal: when oysters are removed from the water, they can continue to breathe for up to two weeks if they’re properly stored. Once they die, they almost immediately become unsafe to eat, as they begin to become home to a huge number of bacteria that can make you quite sick.

Don’t believe us? There’s a tried and true test you can take to make sure your oyster is alive. Simply tap the shell and see what happens. If the shell closes, that means the oyster is alive, breathing and all. If it doesn’t close, or if it came to you already open, that means it’s dead, and you definitely don’t want to eat it.


There’s a silver lining, though. As Delish reports via HuffPost, oyster expert Julie Qiu says that “oysters probably die when the meat is separated from the shell, because the oyster’s heart is right next to the bottom abductor muscle. That would mean that they aren’t technically still alive when you [eat them].” So if you don’t mind knowing that much information about your food, then you’re all good.

Still, not all experts agree with Qiu. Some believe that they don’t really die until you start chewing them or until they encounter the acid in your stomach, which… eek.

Watch an oyster getting shucked here if you’re unfamiliar:

You end up with…

So… do they feel pain? Experts really aren’t sure, unfortunately. Seafish, a non-departmental public body that aims to improve efficiency and raise standards across the food industry, told Metro, “Unfortunately there’s no definitive proof either way. There are groups that argue oysters might feel pain, and others who say because they don’t have a central nervous system then they don’t feel pain in the way other seafood species might. We currently don’t have research in this area.”

Just something to think about the next time you’re shucking oysters!

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