In Casco Bay off the coast of Portland, Maine, a “mussel sausage” is made. Picture a sausage casing made of fabric, but instead of meat, it’s filled with tiny mussels attached to a rope. It’s called a mussel line, and it’s just one of the many inventive processes the team at Bangs Island Mussels uses each day.
The day begins at 5 a.m., when mussel harvesters sail out into the icy waters to one of six 40-by-40 foot rafts to create a mussel line to hang in the water. They feed small, unsellable mussels that need more time to grow from the previous day’s harvest into the machine that creates the line. The line is then dangled from the raft to allow the mussels to grow in the water sustainably, and protected from predators. This also makes harvesting them more efficient when it comes time to pull them out.
From there, the process gets high tech. A machine helps separate the mussels from the line, and from the other organisms that have grown around them. They then get fed onto a conveyor belt, and into a machine that rinses and separates the mussels from their clumps. Next, the team takes the haul back to the processing facility, where a series of machines help to remove fibers, inspect, polish, pack, weigh, and ship the mussels for distribution using another line of super high-tech machinery.
At the end of the day, after the laborious process is made slightly easier by the custom machinery built to help the mussel farmers, some of Maine’s largest sustainably grown mussels are ready to sell to shops, chefs, and restaurants.