Pearl Farmer Sells Oyster Meat

FOR third-generation Kimberley pearl farmer James Brown, developing a national market for fresh pearl meat fits perfectly with the Cygnet Bay family business philosophy of focusing on carefully crafted, high-value premium product.

Translucent in appearance, pearl meat is the adductor muscle that attaches the hand-sized pearl oyster to its shell. On rock oysters it is the stub left on the shell when the oyster is removed, and too small to be considered worth eating. But when taken from the monster Pinctada maxima pearl oysters the meat can be flash-fried or sliced sashimi-style and drizzled with lemon and chilli for an epicurean delicacy. The taste is best described as a cross between abalone and scallop.

Although pearl meat is not new to the Australian restaurant scene, most has traditionally been sold dried or frozen. Brown says his company hopes to develop a niche market for the fresh product among high-end restaurants. The company's advantage is its location: unlike some competitors that can only be reached by boat, Cygnet Bay has road access, enabling rapid transport across the country.

"We had celebrity chef Iain Lawless (of Kitsch in Perth) and the Loose Box chef Alain Fabregues demonstrate the product at the Mundaring Truffle Festival and they loved it," Brown says. "Both chefs had only used frozen pearl meat before and said the raw product was just so much better."

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