Skyrocketing Lobster Prices Are Forcing US Restaurants to Reconsider Their Menu Choices

© Pexels/Kindel MediaRed lobster, white textile
Red lobster, white textile - Sputnik International, 1920, 13.03.2022
Soaring lobster prices are causing restaurants to rethink selling the precious crustacean. Businesses will either have to take the tasty arthropod off their menus entirely or else sticker shock their customers.
According to Axios, skyrocketing prices are a result of supply and demand issues.
Maine lobster fisheries are struggling to keep up with rising demand despite an increase in their catch, from 102 million pounds in 2019 to 108 million pounds in 2021.
As a result, fishermen on the coast of Maine were able to sell their catch for $6.71 a pound last year, up 59% after the pandemic shot down prices in 2020, resulting in a haul value of $725 million in 2021, according to Maine’s Department of Marine Resources.
Other factors affecting market prices include Maine’s catch being dropped off earlier this year than is typical, Canada’s lobster catching season starting two weeks later than usual, and high demand through Valentine's Day in the US, as well as Lunar New Year in China, according to James Ford of the distribution company Samuels Seafood.
“We will see prices remain high until the second or third week in April,” he projects. “This is when Newfoundland [Canada] season generally floods the market, and water temps begin to warm, which makes lobsters more active.”
Maine lobster is an industry that contributes $1 billion a year to the state’s economy and supports some 10,000 jobs, both on and off the water. In Maine, sea temperatures are slightly higher than those in Canada, causing the tasty bottom dwellers to have tender and sweeter meat.
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The animal can only live for up to 48 hours out of its native habitat and must be cooked while it is still alive, so transportation of the creatures is time-sensitive. What used to be seen as a “poor man’s food” is now an expensive delicacy, causing visitors to flock to New England.
But for those who live further south of the state which borders Canada, the steep cost of lobster will most likely come as a shock to those dining at their favorite restaurants in Washington, DC, like The Prime Rib, where a two-pound lobster now costs customers $100.
The Salt Line, another restaurant in DC, has cut lobster rolls from their menu, opting instead for shrimp and clam rolls sold at their Navy Yard and Ballston locations.
“Lobster rolls just aren’t meant to be that expensive. It’s almost embarrassing to pass that cost to our guests,” said Salt Line partner Jeremy Carman.
Greg Casten, who was born in Boston, is the founder of DC sustainable seafood wholesaler ProFish, and is a partner in Tony & Joe’s waterfront restaurant in Georgetown. While he’s had to remove their $25 lobster deal from the menu, he still offers the delicacy to those who are willing to pay ‘market price’, meaning $90 for a two-pound lobster.
Casten is doubtful that seafood prices will come down again.
A pedestrian walks past the boarded up and closed ArcLight Cinemas Hollywood, Monday, April 12, 2021, in Los Angeles. Pacific Theaters, which operates some 300 screens in California, including the beloved ArcLight theaters and the historic Cinerama Dome in Hollywood, said Monday that it will not be reopening. Fans, including numerous actors, took to social media to share memories of the theater chain and lobby for it to be saved. - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.04.2021
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“I think you’ll see prices come down, but they’ll never come down to the availability they were before,” says Casten. “A lot of people got out of the [fishing] business. No one with a skill set wants to do it. Just wait until you see the cost of crab meat—nobody wants to do it.”
Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls, based out of Annapolis, MD, works with a wholesaler in Portland, Maine. Mason’s has been more gracious in managing how they sell the precious meat, raising the price of their lobster rolls dollar by dollar each year, resulting in a charge of $19 instead of $15 for the tasty sandwich.
“Since we are selling lobster, people already expect a different price point than burgers and pizza,” says Rustu Kurtov, the owner of Mason’s Dupont Circle location. “Honestly it’s not just lobster—we see price hikes on everything: soup cups, paper, plastic. We’re considering another dollar increase right now.”
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