Lobsters are some of the most sought-after luxury foods worldwide, and their prices are now experiencing a ten-year high due to increased demand. But it appears that the demand level is only trending higher as more and more people are becoming aware of the culinary delight of lobster.
The average cost of a live lobster can run anywhere between $30-$120 a pound. A lobster will typically weigh between one and four pounds at most retailers, making the average price of a live lobster $60. However, shipping costs can potentially raise the overall cost of your lobster purchase.
Live lobster prices can fluctuate, shift and change with demand. This blog post helps you understand the ins and outs and the highs and lows of lobster pricing so that you can be a smarter shopper the next time you’re looking to add lobster to your menu.
The Price Of A Live Lobster
As with any product, the price of lobster gets based on the laws of supply and demand. When there is a higher demand for lobster than a supply, the price of lobster goes up. The converse is also true; when more lobster is available than people demand, the cost of lobster goes down. The natural ebb and flow are what makes the lobster prices so volatile.
This summer, lobster prices have risen to all-time highs, causing some eateries to forgo carrying the seafood to protect their clients from sticker shock. However, some clients are willing to pay the high prices for lobster, which is good news for retailers.
A single pound of lobster meat can cost as much as $40 to $80, making it one of the most expensive seafood.
According to Annie Tselikis, Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association Executive Director, the price of lobster continuously gets tied to the price dictated by the market. “Supply and demand are what we’re looking at right now,” she says.
Tselikis claimed that prices had increased significantly compared to ten years ago, with live lobsters fetching record prices and lobster meat costing even more.
The Science Behind Lobster Pricing
A lot can occur between the time a lobster gets caught and when it ends up on your plate, all of which affect the final price. Let’s take an in-depth look at all the steps involved in pricing a lobster.
How Lobster Fishing Affects Lobster Prices
The sea can be very unforgiving at times—lobstermen and women must put their lives on the line every time they leave the shore to catch some lobster.
The price of gas, bait, crew’s wages, and other necessary materials to go out lobster fishing all contribute to the high cost of a lobster. Not to mention, catching lobster is very tedious and time-consuming.
It’s hard to fully predict and plan for a specific season’s harvest, unlike frozen shrimp or farmed oysters. The catch can change dramatically and be unpredictable from one season to the next. That has led to substantial price fluctuations over the years.
However, not everyone is sure that lobstermen reap the rewards of their efforts.
The Supply Chain Of Lobster And How It Affects Prices
Usually, lobstermen sell their catch to cooperatives or dealers, who then sell to other dealers who may add a premium to the price for their services. Along the way, these dealers sort the lobsters for quality.
Only a tiny portion of the collected lobsters will be of good enough quality to sell as live lobster, while others may get damaged or their meat used to process lobster products. The live lobsters are then typically sold to wholesalers who will, in turn, sell them to retailers or directly to restaurants.
However, live lobster prices have been increasing so rapidly that some retailers have difficulty keeping up. And to stay competitive, they have also had to increase their prices.
How Climate Impacts The Cost Of A Lobster
The lobster trade is also highly seasonal and susceptible to changes in the climate. Warm water temperatures can lead to a higher number of molts or lobster shedding their shell.
A higher number of molts means more soft-shell lobsters are not as desirable to consumers and thus not worth as much. In addition, new predators of young lobsters, such as black seabass, squid, and eels, emerge due to the warm waters.
On the other hand, cold water temperatures can lead to slower growth rates and less meat per lobster. And this results in fewer but larger and heavier lobsters that can sell at a higher price.
The Weather Impacts The Price Of Lobster
In an average year, lobstermen and women harvest about 60% of the lobster catch during summer. They typically catch the other 40% in the fall and winter.
However, the weather can have a weighty impact on these numbers. For example, a string of warm days in November could lead to an early start to the season and a fabulous lobster catch. On the other hand, a cold snap in May could delay the beginning of the season and lead to a smaller lobster catch.
When Are Lobster Prices Best?
Is there a better time of year to buy lobster? The catch, the demand, and the weather all play a significant role. For instance, the demand for lobster peaks between Christmas, New Year’s, and Chinese New Year’s, making these some of the most expensive times to buy lobster.
A lengthy, cold winter and frigid spring might delay the lobster season. Keep in mind that lobsters are less active in cold water and less inclined to seek food, such as the bait in a lobster trap. May is usually one of the best months to buy lobster if the water is not icy cold.
Lobsters molt when the water warms, growing to market size and boosting the population. The Prices will decrease as there are more lobsters in the supply chain. The reverse happens in the fall and winter as the water cools and the lobster population declines.
The best time to buy hardshell lobster is typically mid-summer to early fall. Also, this is when the lobsters are the heaviest and have the most meat.
How Can You Save Money On Lobster?
While lobster is luxury food, there are ways to save money and still enjoy it. They include;
- Buying lobster tails instead of whole lobsters- Although you might miss out on the thrill of cracking open your lobster, lobster tails are a lot cheaper. You can find them for around $20 per pound, whereas whole lobsters cost upwards of $40 per pound.
- Purchasing frozen lobster- Frozen lobster is a great way to get the taste of fresh lobster without paying a higher price tag. You can usually find frozen lobster for around $15 per pound.
- Crack your lobster- It can be challenging to open a hard-shelled lobster. That’s why shelled full claws or legs have a higher price tag. If you’re willing to open your lobster, you can save money by buying a whole lobster and cracking it yourself.
Lobsters are delicious and luxurious seafood that you can year-round. However, their price tag can be a bit daunting. By understanding the factors that impact the price of lobster, you can be sure to get the best deal possible. Lobster prices are typically highest in the winter and spring, but you can save money by buying lobster tails or frozen lobster.