New Orleans (WGNO) - New Orleans is the biggest market for a young company near Bayou La Batre, Alabama that takes pride in raising a handcrafted oyster. Head farmer for Murder Point Oysters, Lane Zirlott, took Twist Reporter Stephanie Oswald and Photojournalist Derek Felton behind the scenes.
There are 800,000 oysters growing in cages underwater, at the end of a newly built pier in Sandy Bay.
“It's just one of the best oysters you’ll find anywhere in the world,” claims Zirlott.
His family’s company took its name from local folklore that says years ago, a man was killed in a fight over the lease of the land where Zirlott’s oyster field now sits—so the Murder Point Oyster Company motto is "Oysters worth killing for."
It’s all part of a trend that’s taking off: boutique oysters, grown in the South.
“You’ve never had a southern oyster like this. Usually when you think of a southern oyster you think of a big 4 or 5 inch piece of meat, steak of an oyster, and what we’re doing here is a 2 and a half, 2 and 3/4, 3-inch oyster that’s a perfect one shot raw bar oyster,” explains Zirlott.
He compares oyster farming to running a vineyard and says that just like grapes, oysters get their flavor from their environment.
And like a winemaker tending to his fruit, Zirlott and his team give their crop lots of tender loving care.
Oysters are rolled in a tumbler to control their shape and size. The edges break off, forcing the oyster to grow a deeper cup, instead of growing wider. The goal is creamy, buttery boutique oysters. On social media, Zirlott is all about #butterlove.
By Alabama law, during the months of June, July and August, the oyster farmers only have one hour to get the oysters from the water to mechanical refrigeration—but thanks to “random quality control checks” (think: raw from the water!) there are always a few that definitely won’t make it!