In the 19th century, oysters were in high demand. Molluscs were harvested in large amounts and loaded into packinghouses and canneries, where the oysters were packaged for the market. Since oyster shells are tough to open and require skill to delicately pry open without damaging the soft flesh, oyster shuckers in charge of opening the oysters were hired.
Oyster opening was dirty, dull, and exhausting. So in an effort to relieve the boredom of work, oyster opening competitions began. The best shucker, of course, wins a hefty reward, around a few month’s worth of wages. As this new “sport” spread throughout Europe and North America, its rules began to vary in different locations and competitions. Participants also developed a wide range of style and technique, inventing new methods and equipment. Oyster opening is an art, and a competitive shucker must strike a balance between speed and precision to advance in the game.
In the Danish Oyster Cup, only Limfjorden oysters (Ostrea edulis) are used for opening. Native to Denmark, this variety is among the finest in the world, brimming with succulent meat, with a rich, non-metallic taste that is often found in common flat oysters, less briny and with a very slight sweet aftertaste. However, they come with a very strong shell to crack. More than brute force, competitors need skill and cunning to take on the challenge, for most of the time the sport of oyster opening relies more on mind than muscle.