Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Low price of lobsta'

Daniel Gross, for Slate, write about the stable and now seemingly low cost of lobsters in our inflated food market. It makes sense when you think about it - or rather, read about it.

"At root, the global forces that are driving up the price of food don't significantly affect the vacation lobster business in Maine. Commercial and consumer demand doesn't vary much for off-the-boat lobster. Sure, many lobsters are sold to processing plants. But unlike other seafood products—think of canned tuna, or clam sauce, or frozen fish fillets—lobster is not produced or marketed on a mass global scale, which also means there are no speculators trying to make a killing on lobster futures. The fact that people are eating more and better in China and India isn't much boosting the demand for lobsters from Maine. Even in the United States, lobster remains to a large degree a regional product. While you can find lobster on the menu at better restaurants in the Midwest, or, heaven help you, at Red Lobster, you're unlikely to find live lobster tanks in Meijer stores in Michigan or Wal-Marts in the Ozarks. In addition, lobster is a luxury, discretionary food product that requires special equipment and extra fortitude to cook at home. (I watched in sympathy as one of our hosts, a Maine resident for two decades, winced in horror as she plunged the living creatures into a boiling cauldron.)"

I too have "winced in horror" as someone "plunged the living creatures into a boiling cauldron." But back to business. Gross sites the following reasons for inexpensive lobsters in Maine:

- Lobstermen don't pay for fertilizer or feed. Just gas for their boats.
- Short supply chain. Lobsters aren't distributed on a global scale; they move from traps to dockside tanks to either the home cooks or restaurants.
- Melted butter side dish is inexpensive.
- "Distributors seeking to maintain their margins are cramming down the fishermen and with limited local outlets, lobstermen can't hold out for higher prices."

Find the article here and enjoy the awesome picture of my mom in a lobster hat from our summer trip to Maine:

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