You decide you want to splurge a little on lobster tails for an upcoming family get-together. You browse the local supermarket or consider ordering lobster tails online, only to be shocked by their prices. Why is lobster expensive, whether you live by the ocean or hundreds of miles away?
Lobsters can indeed set you back a pretty penny no matter how or where you buy them (but they’re worth it!). You may not know, though, that there’s science behind the price tag, and we aim to set the record straight.
Fun Fact: Lobster Used to Be a Meal for the Poor!
Your parents or grandparents may have told you that lobsters used to be something that even poor people could afford – and they’re exactly right. Before there were high-tech seafood farming techniques and food safety methods like there is today, most types of seafood weren’t the delicacies that we now know and love. The seafood industry now has the best technology and farming methods to harvest and store lobsters quickly and safely to make the process efficient and keep us healthy.
Lobsters used to be plentiful too, much more than they are today. In Colonial New England, it wasn’t uncommon for lobsters to wash up on shore on their own, making them one of the easiest catches for colonists. Tons of lobsters to go around and no high-tech safety practices kept prices low enough for everyone.
If whole lobsters and lobster tails used to be inexpensive meals that almost anyone could afford, why is lobster tail so expensive now?
Perhaps the number one reason for rising lobster prices is that lobsters are much more in-demand than they were when they were more plentiful. Back when the lobsters were so over-populated that they washed up on shore, there were almost more of them than people knew what to do with. After decades of harvesting, the population has decreased, but the demand continues to grow.
Lobsters aren’t fast-growing creatures, either. In fact, they can take about seven years to grow to the minimum size needed for harvesting, which is about a pound. The slow growth rate of these crustaceans doesn’t help its dwindling population.
Finally, some of the prices you pay for lobsters also covers the technology that comes with farming, harvesting and storing them. Lobster farming is a lot of work, requiring farmers to keep the population fed, healthy, and thriving. Then, factor in the regulations in place for harvesting lobsters, which requires any that don’t meet specific size requirements to be thrown back in (those that are too large are considered the best breeders and aren’t allowed to be harvested).
Plus, lobsters need to be carefully stored before they’re bought to keep them food-safe. Most lobsters are kept alive until they’re sold, which reduces the risk of them carrying harmful diseases that can make you sick. Therefore, they need to be held in water with enough food and oxygen to live and stay healthy. It’s a detailed process that takes a lot of work before your lobster ends up on the dinner table.
Conclusion: Why is Lobster Expensive?
A combination of the lobster life cycle, over-harvesting, and food-safe technology have led to an uptick in lobster prices over the past few decades. What was once a “poor man’s food” is now a delicacy that can take a lot out of your pocket just for one meal. The best thing you can do is make sure your money is paying for real quality, which is exactly what you get when you order lobster from Maine Lobster House.