The simple food that fights climate change

An unappreciated group of filter-feeding animals found around our coastlines could clean up our waters and nourish a billion people. Is it time we championed bivalves?

Simmering in pots around the world is a food that could spark a revolution. Most of us have probably eaten it at some point, but it’s an overlooked part of our diet. This natural source of protein is laden with essential nutrients that could fulfil the dietary needs of nearly one billion people in the most vulnerable populations on the planet. It could be a viable alternative to intensively-farmed meats such as beef. And it comes with smorgasbord of environmental and sociological gains.

The animals that are the source of this food require no feeding, need no antibiotics or agrochemicals to farm. And they actively sequester carbon. They can even protect fragile ecosystems by cleaning the water they live in. Welcome to the remarkable and unglamorous world of the bivalve.

This biological corner of our oceanic ecology is not as attention-grabbing as fish or mesmerising as a deep-sea octopus. Instead it includes the evolutionarily simpler family of shell-dwelling creatures consisting of mussels, clams, oysters and scallops. These hinge shelled molluscs have quietly embraced the lower reaches of the food chain as filter feeders, sustaining themselves on microscopic organic matter present in the waters of their immediate environment.

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