Love lobster? So do we! What we don’t like is the dent it puts in our wallet every time we treat ourselves out to dinner or buy fresh lobster for cooking at home.
But why is lobster so expensive? Even when “at the dock” prices take a dip it seems like the end consumer still ends up paying full price in-store, online, and when dining at restaurants.
Turns out, there are some interesting facts and factors that contribute and support the high price tag we all pay for this succulent seafood delicacy.
In this guide, we’ll explore what these factors are and what you can do to enjoy your favorite lobster dish on a budget and without breaking the bank.
Why Is Lobster So Expensive: A look behind the scenes.
Lobster Farming is Difficult
You’ve no doubt heard or are aware of “fisheries”. Fisheries are essentially fish farms where your favorite “catch of the day” is bred and farmed for consumption. Such a setup allows the industry to cheaply produce seafood for consumers and restaurants alike.
Lobsters, however, are notoriously difficult to “farm”. They grow and mature slowly, are voracious eaters, and are quite susceptible to diseases (many of which are contagious and spread throughout a colony).
Adding to the challenge of farming lobsters is that their eggs are hard to foster through their natural growth cycle into fledging lobsters.
All of these factors result in slow, expensive production, which is why lobster farms largely are non-existent, meaning that markets are almost entirely reliant on wild-caught lobster.
Proximity and Logistics
Markets all around the country (and world) rely on freshly caught lobsters in the wild. For those of us in the United States, this means lobsters caught in Maine.
But if there is one thing we’ve learned, its that the freshness of the lobster matters for culinary preparation, be it for a scrumptious at-home meal, or a delectably prepared restaurant dish.
Yet expeditiously getting the lobster from ocean to boat, to plate is a feat that takes some doing (especially if you don’t live near Maine). The key is to keep the lobsters alive, moist, and cool during transport. Lobster always tastes best when it’s cooked alive (yikes). A bit disturbing, but very true.
But its not just about taste. Lobsters are notorious for being host to certain types of bacteria that can make people sick. Cooking the lobster while still alive reduces the chance of infection and gives the bacteria little time to fester and replicate before it gets cooked.
To get lobster to its destination alive and healthy, shipping requires the use of specialized equipment and processes. None of which is easy or cheap. All of these costs (as you may have guessed already) get passed on down to the end customer.
What About Processed Lobster?
So we know that fresh lobster found both in-store and when dining out is expensive. But what about processed lobster? Processed lobster is lobster meat that has already been harvested and cooked/prepared for eating.
This too is a resource-intensive process. The only part of the lobster we care about is the meat, requiring removal from its shell and safe disposal of the “unwanted” bits. The lobster must then be cleaned and prepped before high-pressure water cooking.
Too Many Hands in the Proverbial Pot
No matter if sold live, dead and on ice, or processed, the lobster must pass through quite a few hands, companies and processes to go from ocean to plate.
The typical logistics involved with lobster might include:
- Fishermen and boats
- Live market (or direct to the processor)
- A grocery store or restaurant
- End consumer
Each stage is associated with costs related to the task/role, adding to the cumulative total price per pound the end-customer pays.
Perceived Value and Delicacy
Similar to steak, there is plenty of lobster available on the market. We are not running into a situation of supply not able to meet demand. Rather, lobster (for many reasons) is considered a luxury seafood dish, and just like a good steak, it carries a price tag that reflects this.
How to Enjoy Lobster on a Budget
And now for the important part…how you can enjoy lobster on a budget, despite its high price tag. Follow the tips below to enjoy lobster dishes without breaking the bank.
1. Stretch it Out
When we think of lobster we often think of gigantic lobster tails. Although these make for a fantastic meal, it gets expensive FAST if you have multiple people to feed.
Instead, consider recipes that utilize all the flavor of lobster, but allow you to stretch out each delectable pound you buy.
Recipes that can transform a pound or two of lobster into delectable dishes that can be enjoyed by many:
- Lobster salad
- Cobb salad
- Lobster bisque
- Seafood pasta dishes
- Lobster appetizers to pair with the main course
2. Buy Online
From the Atlantic to your tabletop, online stores often have affordable quality Maine lobster meat at prices below those you’d find at traditional markets. Online lobster specialty stores do the heavy lifting for you, negotiating bulk rates, finding the best suppliers, doing quality control, and ensuring their customers get the best product at the best value year-round. Leverage their unique bargaining power and optimized logistics to get fresh Maine lobster sent from ocean to plate in just a few mouse clicks.
3. Buy and Enjoy “In Season”
Just like fruits and vegetables, lobster also has an “in season” and “off-season” period during which price fluctuations and availability fluctuate. Buying “in season” can save you big as compared to those months when supply begins to dwindle.
Although lobster is caught and harvested year-round in New Hampshire and Maine, the best months to enjoy lobster “in season” include:
- Late December
4. Bulk Up
Have a big event coming up or hosting a dinner party? Consider buying in bulk. Bulk purchases can often mean lower prices and/or the opportunity to negotiate a bit to meet your needs. Consider asking your preferred provider if they offer bulk deals and/or shop around at wholesalers for better rates.
The Lobster You Love, At Prices, You Won’t Hate
Lobster is among the most delectable seafood options on the menu, but for many of us, its cost is too prohibitive to regularly enjoy. By following the tips in this guide you can make sure you get the most value out of your purchase and ensure you don’t overspend the next time you’re in the market for this highly sought after dish.