Why Is Lobster So Expensive and Was It Once a Poor Man’s Food?


Today, lobster on the table is a prestigious attribute of an expensive dinner. But during the first British colonies of New England in the 17th century, there were so many of them that people collected them right on the shore and used them as fertilizer for fields or bait for fish, squeamishly calling them sea cockroaches. But things changed dramatically.

Why is lobster so expensive? Lobster is so expensive because it takes a lot of time, effort, and knowledge to maintain, get, store, and cook lobsters. Lobsters should be kept fresh before cooking to avoid deadly bacteria spreading and the taste changing. Besides, according to experts, certain psychological factors make us treat lobsters as a delicacy, and not just food. Since we subconsciously associate lobsters with high prices, lower prices will significantly reduce the chances of buying.

Is lobster worth the price? Lobster is definitely worth the price because lobster meat is excellent for diet food. Lobster contains protein, choline, and vitamins A, B5, B9, E, and PP. Lobster also contains many beneficial minerals such as zinc, potassium, magnesium, selenium, phosphorus, copper, sodium, and calcium. Lobster contains a very small amount of fat, cholesterol and therefore it is low in calories —90 calories per 100 grams.

Lobster meat contains vitamins such as retinol, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, pyridoxine, cyanocobalamin, tocopherol, choline, folic and pantothenic acids. Besides, it is rich in micro and macro elements – sodium, magnesium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, copper, manganese, iron, fluorine, zinc, and selenium.

Due to its balanced vitamin and mineral composition, lobster meat helps prevent malignant cancers, as well as helps to strengthen the immune system, and has a positive effect on hematopoiesis, as well as on the functioning and growth of cells. Also, eating lobster meat helps to lower blood pressure, strengthen blood vessels and arteries, and also has a positive effect on the human nervous system.

Since lobster meat contains a high percentage of cholesterol, its excessive consumption can cause various diseases of the cardiovascular system. Since lobsters are foods that spoil too quickly and their shelf life is no more than two days, it is not recommended to purchase this seafood unfrozen and peeled. If they are devoid of a shell, the meat can dry out too quickly and lose its amazing flavor. Besides, keep in mind that the freshness of the lobster can be easily determined by the appearance of the shell — if the shell is covered with dark spots, it means that the lobster is not fresh.

Right now the price for lobsters in the United States of America ranges from $30 to $50 for 1 pound of lobster. But in the past, lobsters were food for poor people and prisoners. How did that happen?

Did lobsters use to be peasant food? Yes, lobsters used to be peasant and poor man’s food. The now expensive lobster was once considered the food of the poor and was fed to slaves, prisoners, and servants. The latter even sued the city of Massachusetts, demanding that they be fed lobsters no more than three times a week. It’s no wonder that lobsters had a bad reputation for a long time.

Why Did Lobsters Become So Expensive?

Only closer to the middle of the 19th century, lobsters begin to be in demand. This happened for three reasons. First, the railways were actively developing and finally connected the center with the coast. Secondly, people learned to preserve food: in 1825, a method for preserving salmon, oysters, and lobster in cans was patented in the United States. And thirdly, domestic tourism began to develop, thanks to which Boston, in whose coastal waters a lot of lobsters, lived, became popular with residents of New York and Washington. They happily ate inexpensive boiled lobsters, and then returned to their homes and missed the taste.

When did lobster become a luxury? So gradually, even before World War II, lobster became a coveted product for which people were willing to pay good money. Naturally, over time, with great demand, the population of lobsters decreased. This led to an increase in prices and thus lobsters became a luxury. Why did lobsters become so expensive? Crustaceans began to be served to aristocrats in Europe, and they became one of the most expensive seafood.

In the 17th and 18th centuries, lobsters were so common in New England that anyone could go down to the sea and get a full basket. They were called “sea cockroaches” and were eaten only in case of severe hunger. And the word lobster comes from the Old English spider. Lobsters were mainly used as fertilizer.

Was lobster once a poor man’s food? Did they use to feed lobsters to prisoners?  Yes, lobsters became the food of slaves, criminals, servants, poor people, and soldiers. Lobsters were so cheap that they were used as livestock feed. At the beginning of the 18th century, a trial took place, during which the servants complained about the mistreatment. One argument was that the servants were too often fed lobsters. And the court issued a special ruling that lobsters can be on the menu no more than three times a month.

In the late 17th and early 19th centuries, cat food was made of lobsters. In premodern times, lobsters were boiled dead and then canned — usually salted or packed in rough, sealed containers.

Today, of course, lobster is a glamorous delicacy, just one or two steps below caviar. Its meat is richer and juicier than that of most fish species, and the taste is more refined compared to the sea-smelling shellfish. In American pop food, lobster today is the seafood counterpart of steak, with which it is often served together as a Surf and Turf roast, one of the most expensive items on any steakhouse’s menu.

When did lobster become a popular food? The reputation of lobsters began to improve only after the American Civil War. And the railway companies did it. Lobsters began to be included in the menu of dining cars in those states that did not have access to the ocean. And they didn’t know about the lobster’s bad reputation.

The chefs started experimenting with lobster and came up with many new dishes. The demand for them has sharply increased – and, consequently, the production of lobsters has increased sharply (even in the 19th century, a lobster weighing 2.5 kg was considered small). Lobsters became less common and soon became a delicacy.

Now In Great Britain and Italy, lobsters are under state protection. If the police or animal welfare office finds out that you threw a poor lobster in boiling water, you can pay a fine of up to 500 euros. So before you cook a delicious dish from the lobster, they put it to sleep.

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