Are oysters alive when you eat them?

The wife and I just chowed down on some oysters. Obviously they were alive when I shucked them. (Well, except for the one that looked like a lump of black Play-Doh.) But were they alive when we ate them? Or did they die when I shucked them?

Yes, they are still alive if you eat them shortly after shucking them. Shucking them only cuts the adductor muscle, it doesn’t affect vital organs. If you put lemon juice on them they will squirm around.

Mrs. L.A. puts lemon juice on them while I’m cleaning up the shucking area, so I never get to see that.

Thanks. (They were delicious, BTW.)

Some think removing them from the shell just before swallowing them kills them. However, considering you can do a lot of damage to worms and other invertebrates without killing them I think they probably don’t actually die until they are chewed up.

Follow-on question: Are there other foods from the animal kingdom that we eat when they’re still alive?



Sea urchin sushi, which is actually the animals gonads, is prepared from the living animal. The gonads themselves contain living eggs and sperm.

In Thailand, Dancing Shrimp:


Aren’t some edible insects traditionally consumed alive? I seem to recall a film showing some colonial kid in Africa sharing a snack with her family’s native staff, which consisted of some live ants stuck on buttered bread. Not much of a cite tho.

Witchetty grubs are often eaten alive, by people who eat them. I was going for more commonly-eaten foods than grubs and regional delicacies though.

Here’s a Wiki list of common seafoods eaten alive (my own descriptions, based on what I’ve seen on TV, though never had and opportunity to try):

China - Drunken shrimp - “Drowned” in liquor or Chinese wine and usually eaten alive
China - Yin Yang Fish - Fish in which the head his covered with a cloth and the body (sometimes scored, but missing organs) is deep fried and served alive.

Korea - Sannakji - Chopped or whole (if they’re small) octopus
Sometimes on Korean variety shows, stars and guests will eat small octopus whole when caught while fishing

Note: This is potentially deadly as people have died due to the tentacles clinging to the inside for their esophogus

Japan- Ikizukuri - Usually Sea Bream is cut into sashimi while the fish is still alive and served immediately. Lobster tail meat is also removed, filleted and returned to the shell and served. The back shells, not the head of sweet red shrimp are peeled and usually served as sushi.
Japan - Odori Ebi - Similar to drunken shrimp where sweet red shrimped are “drowned” in liquor or sake and eaten immediately

In Hawaii and throughout Polynesia, opihi (mollusk) and pipipi (sea snail) gatherers will often eat a few of their catch immediately after plucking them from the rocks and boulders they’re picked from.

Oh…also abalone can be eaten raw of the shell as can be couch.

I think most shellfish can be eaten raw, but you have to be careful and make sure they absolutely fresh and from known waters since they’re bottom filter feeders. Part of the Chinese cleansing routine that my ex was on (to clear a recurring rash she couldn’t get rid of), included no shellfish, crab, lobster or bottom feeding fish. Also no duck or goose because like the bottom feeders, they’re scavengers and will eat anything in and on the bottom of the water. It took a few months of this restricted diet and herbal medicine, but while her rash never completely went any, it was much, much better than Western doctors could do.

Oh, yuck. Did you have to say “chewed”. I won’t sleep now. Well, I don’t sleep anyway, but that’s as good a reason as any. Again, yuck!

How are you going to taste it if you don’t chew it?

Well, it looks like my natural instinct not to eat raw oysters served me well! Don’t like them in any form and will only eat clams fried.

So…no monkey brains?

I have a 8mm film, somewhere, of my Daddy eating raw oysters. We used to get so grossed out when he would play it. He would pause it and replay it over and over while all us kids were gagging and squealing.
I don’t think he chewed, though He used to have his sound effects going as he played the film. He made nasty slurping sounds as it played. Oh, jeez, what a nice memory your thread has brought up.

so … you never told us … did you eat the misfit?

Although this started as a simple factual question, that question has now been answered, and it appears to have moved on to a general discussion of foods eaten live. General discussions of food go in Cafe Society, so I’ll go ahead and move this.

[not moderating]

So, with this “herbal medicine”, her rash persisted for months, and still didn’t go away? That sounds like whatever she was doing was absolutely terrible, since rashes will usually go away much quicker than that with no medicine at all. Is it possible that she was allergic to those “herbs”?