The Gulf oil spill is forcing the removal of oysters from Red Lobster’s menu.
A Franklin, La., processing plant that provided Darden Restaurants with oysters for its Red Lobster chain shut down last week because it was unable to maintain its supply. AmeriPure Processing Co.’s co-owner and founder said the closure could last through October.Once Red Lobster’s current supply runs out, probably in the next couple of weeks, oysters will come off the menu, Darden spokesman Rich Jeffers said Monday. It’s uncertain when they’ll return.
Jeffers said oysters make up only a small portion of its Red Lobster sales, but he did not provide a percentage.
Capital Grille, Darden’s upscale steakhouse chain, uses oysters from outside the Gulf and will continue to serve them, Jeffers said.
AmeriPure is known for a special method of treating oysters to kill off harmful bacteria. The process includes bathing them in warm water, followed by an ice-cold shock bath to stop the transfer of heat.
Gib Migliano, whose St. Petersburg company Save On Seafood supplies Red Lobsters in Florida, said his last shipment from AmeriPure came in Friday.
“When we run out tonight or tomorrow morning,” he said Monday, “that will be it.”
Migliano said some companies that use oysters have switched to coldwater varieties from the East Coast, which cost three times as much.
AmeriPure supplied 435 Red Lobster restaurants. The chain has about 660 restaurants throughout the country but not all serve oysters. Those that do serve them as appetizers, raw or steamed.
The closure, AmeriPure co-owner and founder Patrick Fahey said, “really has to do with our inability to get any meaningful volume of oysters in to our shop to process on a regular basis. We can’t get them.”
It’s not just that oyster beds have been closed, he said.
“So few boats are willing to harvest oysters simply because they’re going to make better money working for BP” cleaning up the spill, he said, adding that 48 workers were laid off from the plant.
The packinghouse is “taking a wait-and-see attitude to when is this nightmare going to end, when are they going to stop that hole in our beautiful Gulf,” he said. Then, it will take “a few more weeks to figure out what the totality of the disaster is going to mean to Louisiana’s oyster industry.”