Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Cheap Lobster

An interesting article in The Atlantic interpreting a report of a crash in lobster prices up in Maine. First the wire story:
Prices for lobster plunged last year to levels not seen in 20 years, leading Turner and a growing number of other lobstermen to sell from the backs of pickup trucks, from garages, and even on Craigslist. By going directly to consumers, lobstermen say they can make roughly $1 more per pound than what they get from lobster dealers.
So what is it? Not enough stock brokers and hedge fund managers going out for fancy dinners? Overfishing? Aparently not according to Trevor Corson at the Atlantic:
Way before our current recession began, lobstermen were doing such a good job conserving their resource that beginning in the 1990s, they were already catching more lobsters than the market could sustain. There's never been enough demand for all those live lobsters. They've always had to go somewhere else.

Remember how I said stocks of codfish in Canada had collapsed 20 years ago? Those cod used to be packaged and frozen by Canadian processing plants. After the cod collapse, the same Canadian plants started packaging and freezing the extra lobsters being caught in New England. They took up the slack.

By an unfortunate twist of fate, those plants had their financing tied up in the Icelandic banking system, and when it collapsed last fall, the capacity of the processing plants did, too. Ever since then, the market has been flooded with excess live lobster. Lobsters that used to get turned into frozen claws and tails for mid-level chains like Red Lobster are now filling the fresh lobster tanks to overflowing. Thus the crash in price. The fact that luxury dining has declined doesn't help, but it's not the cause. The problem is simply that New England's lobsters have finally come home to roost.
His advice is to make a bigger deal of the job they've done in conservation, and embrace more fully the principles of sustainability... as environmentally conscious eaters are a pretty stable market. That eating lobster... a food I've always associated with decadence(my visits to Maine are changing that view)... is, in fact, environmentally conscious, it pretty surprising.

So order the lobster! Both cheap and good(or not bad at least) for the planet.

As an aside, in trying to find out if I could check lobster prices online to see how cheap they were in Cambridge, I did find that there is a fish market(called The Fishmonger natch) within walking distance that I never knew about. Next to Formmagio Kitchen apparently... I'll have to check it out.

photo by flickr user SisterMaryEris used under a Creative Commons license