Performance and conduct of supply chains for United States farmed oysters
Farmed oysters are one of the most valuable aquacultured products in the United States (U.S.), are highly perishable, and increasingly shipped live year-round. Supply chain actors must work together to bring refrigerated oysters to market quickly, while maintaining product value, safety and traceability information. In light of these demands, this study assesses the performance and conduct of supply chains for U.S. farmed oysters (Crassostrea virginica, C. gigas). Over the two-year study period, we conducted interviews with 56 businesses and tracked 125 oyster shipments from two major growing regions in the U.S. through six different types of supply chains. We hypothesized that direct and intermediated supply chains would perform differently in terms of time-to-market, product temperature in cold chains, compliance with temperature regulations, and modeled risks from Vibrio parahaemolyticus. Intermediated supply chains, by their definition have more connections than direct supply chains, and we found this introduces a longer time-to-market and a higher incidence of time and temperature abuse. However, these factors did not lead to greater modeled V. parahaemolyticus risks. Participants in both direct and intermediated supply chains were aware of the importance of traceability and felt uniformly positive about their ability to perform recalls. A common concern was the speed of government-imposed recalls, which can be declared by regulators after the affected live oysters are consumed. Members of these supply chains play different roles in maintaining the cold chain, possess different levels of information related to traceability, and describe different levels of trust with other supply chain actors. This paper contributes to a growing body of knowledge on supply chains for seafood and their critical, and sometimes overlooked, role in larger food systems.