The term lobster is used to refer to a number of crustacean species. For example, there are spiny lobsters, which can be distinguished by their very spiny antennae as well as their lack of claws on their first four pairs of walking legs. Likewise, there are squat lobsters, which can be distinguished by their flattened appearance as well as their long tails curled up beneath their cephalothoraxes. However, it is important to note that the true lobsters are clawed lobsters, meaning the members of the family Nephropidae. In total, the family Nephropidae encompasses 30 species. Like other families, there are some stand-out characteristics that can be used to pick out clawed lobsters from their not so close crustacean relatives. One excellent example would be how clawed lobsters have huge pincers on their first pair of legs, while another excellent example would be how clawed lobsters have claws on their first three pairs of walking legs. With that said, interested individuals shouldn't count on these generalizations too much because there is a fair amount of variation that can be found among true lobsters.
For proof, consider the clawed lobsters with the most commercial importance. Generally speaking, people in the United States will be familiar with the Homarus americanus, which would be the American lobster that is served up on American tables on a regular basis. However, it is interesting to note that Homarus americanus has a relative called Homarus gammarus, which would be the European lobster that sees more use in certain countries elsewhere. These two species are very close, so much so that it is possible for them to produce viable hybrids. Meanwhile, some people might be familiar with the scampi, which looks more like a shrimp than the clawed lobster that it is in truth. This resemblance is the reason that Italian immigrants to the United States cooked shrimp in the way that they used to cook scampi in their homelands, thus resulting in the shrimp scampi of Italian-American cuisine.
Was Lobster Always Expensive?
In the present time, lobster is famous for being expensive. However, it is amusing to note that there was a time when this wasn't even close to being the case. In short, lobsters were once so common that European colonists could find them washed up on the beach in huge piles that measured two feet high. As a result, said individuals regarded lobster in a very poor light, so much so that it was considered the kind of food that one would feed to prisoners, servants, and other people with low social standing. In fact, it was so bad that having lobster shells about a home was seen as a sign of shame because it suggested that the inhabitants of the home were so poor that they were forced to subsist on an unfamiliar and unpleasant bottom crawler that fed on who knows what.
Over time, this changed because of canned lobster. To be exact, what happened was that the rail companies started feeding canned lobster to people from the inland who weren't aware of its reputation with people on the East Coast. As it turned out, said individuals loved the taste of the canned lobsters, with the result that when they clamored for the fresh stuff when they visited the East Coast. On top of this, lobster received a further boost from the Second World War because it wasn't rationed in those times, which is how a wide range of people from a wide range of backgrounds became introduced to its tastiness. Something that put lobster on the path to becoming the higher-prestige food that it is in the present time.
Why Is Lobster So Expensive Nowadays?
With that said, there are a number of factors that can be blamed for making lobsters as expensive as they are:
Can't Be Farmed
Like a lot of other seafood species, the number of lobsters has plummeted thanks to human consumption. Unfortunately, while some of those seafood species can be farmed, lobsters aren't one of them. As a result, when people want to eat lobster, they need to buy a lobster that was caught from the sea, which is more expensive than a theoretical lobster that was farmed in either the sea or some other environment. On top of this, it should be mentioned that the demand for lobsters has become quite high in modern times, meaning that there is a fair amount of competition that serves to further increase their prices.
Generally speaking, people prefer live lobster over lobster that has been processed and packaged. In part, this is because of the perception that fresh-cooked lobster tastes better. However, it should also be noted that lobster spoils faster than a lot of other meats, thus making the time when they are cooked a very serious issue for anyone who doesn't want to wind up with food poisoning. As such, most of the lobsters that make it to people's plates have been transported over considerable distances under the expensive conditions needed to keep them alive. Even so, some of the lobsters will die, which is why interested parties will order more lobsters than what they need in order to account for this spoilage. Unfortunately, the cost of these dead lobsters will be passed on to the consumers in the form of higher prices for their lobster meals. Having said that, the transportation for lobsters means that they pass through a number of hands on their way to the table, with each link in the logistical chain making the whole process that much more expensive.
Finally, consumers have a strong impression that lobster is supposed to be a higher-prestige food. As a result, they expect lobster to be expensive, so much so that they can become suspicious when they see cheap lobster because that makes them think that they are being scammed in some way. Effectively, this means that to some extent, consumers are the victims of their own expectations when it comes to lobster prices.
Written by Liz Flynn
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