Sometimes it pays to make the phone call...
Over the weekend we ran into a problem with a huge number of dead mussels purchased from our local Whole Foods here in the District of Columbia. More than half the mussels we bought (and more than half the replacements Whole Foods gave us) were DOA.
Before the night was out, I had pulled the label off one of the bags the mussels were sold in and left a phone message with the company of origin in Maine.
Today I received a call back from Jefferson, an employee with J.P.'s Shellfish in Eliot, ME, to discuss what the problem might have been with our mussels.
"It was 100 degrees in Maine last week," Jefferson said. "Those mussels probably went out on Tuesday. It was hotter here than in Dallas, not to make excuses..."
Another possible explanation: "The mussels are weaker when they're spawning. This is their spawning season."
Jefferson said the company had one other complaint--from a restaurant wholesaler--about the high mussel mortality.
Thanks for the intel, Jefferson.
Unfortunately, I didn't keep the label from the bag of mussels, which would have shown the date they were shipped in Maine. But these would be words to the wise: Watch out buying shellfish in the middle of a heat wave. Be prepared to find some dead ones during spawning season. And if you do have a problem, call the company and save the label.
P.S. J.P.'s Shellfish deals in wild-caught mussels from Maine as well as farmed mussels from Prince Edward Island. The company has a wide distrubtion in the Northeast and a website that's worth visiting for their views on sustainable fisheries.