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Cambridge Global Food Security

An Interdisciplinary Research Centre at the University of Cambridge
Scientists at the University of Cambridge have been carrying out pioneering research on the potential of bivalve shellfish (mussels, clams, and oysters) as a nutritious and low-impact food source. New innovations in how we produce bivalves could fulfil the protein needs of nearly one billion people in the most vulnerable global regions.

Our planet faces a food crisis. Our population is suffering under a double-burden of malnutrition and overconsumption, with two billion people micronutrient deficient and over two billion people overweight or obese. Additionally, the global food system is now the single largest greenhouse-gas-emitting sector. The developing tropical regions of the world are bearing the brunt of this crisis.

Dr David Aldridge and David Willer believe clams, mussels, and oysters could provide a key component of a global food solution. Bivalves have a higher protein content than beef, are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, and have some of the highest levels of key minerals of all animal foods. Production also has a lower environmental footprint than that of all other animal foods, and developing just 1% of the coastline suitable for bivalves worldwide would provide over one billion people with all their protein needs.

The paper, published in Nature Food, outlines the key challenges and potential solutions to make production of nutritious, affordable, and environmentally-friendly food for developing countries a reality. 

David Willer said: “Bivalves are a highly affordable food source when produced at large scale, and the global market is rapidly expanding. Production in China alone has grown 1000-fold since 1980, and there is great potential to sustainably expand bivalve aquaculture worldwide, with over 1,500,000 km2 available for sustainable low-cost industry development, particularly around the west coast of Africa and India.” 

One of the biggest challenges is in ensuring bivalve-based foods are appealing to consumers in order to encourage uptake. Substituting bivalve meat for less sustainable fish in dishes that specific cultures are already familiar with is likely to be a key part of the solution. 

David Aldridge said: “We are now collaborating with the world’s biggest seafood manufacturers to help drive a step change in the sustainability and nutritional value of the food that we consume.” 

This follows on from previous article from the University of Cambridge, ‘The World’s their Fish Finger’ – which toted the idea of how a twist on the traditional British 1950s creation might help address the challenge of sustainably feeding our global population. 

Link to the paper:
Public Access link:

Image: Clams by Andrew Yee, Flickr.

Carousel image: Map by David Willer.