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#1
Old 09-07-2011, 06:39 PM
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Maine Lobster vs. Canadian Lobster

I was watching an old episode of Kitchen Nightmares and Ramsay went into a big kerfuffle over the lobsters being served in the restaurant (the Black Pearl, here in NYC). He looked at them and said they were Canadian lobsters when the store is advertising Maine lobsters. Knowing a tiny bit about American geography, I was pretty sure that Maine borders on Canada*. I know that Canadian lobsters are cheaper, but I have no idea what the difference could possibly be. Are the waters off of the coast of Maine where they pull the lobsters be that much different than the waters off of New Brunswick or Nova Scotia? Does a Canadian lobster have a different taste or texture than a Maine lobster? Are there perhaps different subspecies?

Personally, I know Fox has to invent drama for the show, and I think this was just more the producer trying to spice up the show than any real difference, but I'd like the Straight Dope to give me the correct answer (as opposed to more guesses and suppositions...I have enough of those).

ETA:
*Pretty sure means I know damn well and maybe even better than Ramsay.

Last edited by D_Odds; 09-07-2011 at 06:41 PM. Reason: Forgot the asterisk
#2
Old 09-07-2011, 06:46 PM
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The bank reefs that host the Canadian lobsters are more stable.
#3
Old 09-07-2011, 07:14 PM
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According to Jasper White, who knows more about choosing, cooking, and eating lobsters than just about anyone on the planet, there is no difference. The lobsters are identical.

There are some differences in how they run their operations. Canadian lobsters are almost certainly caught by a large corporate enterprise. There are lobster seasons in Canada. Canadian lobsters tend to be shipped to European and Asian markets. Things like that.

I don't think there's any way in hell he could pick up a lobster and tell where it came from.

Last edited by Labrador Deceiver; 09-07-2011 at 07:15 PM.
#4
Old 09-07-2011, 07:15 PM
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Those lobsters were wearing toque's and hockey sweaters, they were dead giveaways.
#5
Old 09-07-2011, 07:32 PM
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There was some discussion of this episode on Chow, and the consensus there was that Gordon was talking a load of shite.

The only thing that occured to me -- and I can't remember the details so let me know if this wasn't the case -- is if they were charging "market price" on the menu. In that case, charging the Maine lobster price for Canadian lobster is slightly deceptive. But even I think I'm reaching.

I've actually eaten at the Black Pearl, after Ramsey but before it closed. I hadn't seen the ep at the time so when it aired I was like... OMG that place was soooooo mediocre.
#6
Old 09-07-2011, 07:43 PM
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The last time I discussed this with my seafood sales person he told me that (and I could be misremembering parts) it's not legal to ship frozen Maine lobster into the US. So what happens is Maine lobster is exported to Canada where it's processed and imported back to the US. Even though it was caught in Maine it's distributed as Canadian Lobster.
#7
Old 09-07-2011, 07:53 PM
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Here we go...
"If you buy a frozen Maine lobster claw in the grocery store, chances are good that it will come with a “Product of Canada” label affixed to the packaging"
snip
"due to the state’s “lobster mutilation law,” which made it illegal to sell lobster claws, tails and other parts. The purpose of the law was to prevent illegally caught lobster from being dismembered and sold in parts."
From here
#8
Old 09-07-2011, 07:57 PM
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Having feasted on the crustacean in Portland last August and in Halifax this August, they're both fine meals and it's the same species AFAIK.

However I believe Ramsay's issue was that you just don't advertise Maine Lobster and then serve Canadian Lobster. "Sourcing" is a hot topic in cuisine circles, and Gordon tends to harp on it quite a lot in almost every show. He uses this case to (over)dramatize that.

He's got company at it: the Agriculture departments in many states, provinces and countries strongly promote identifying your produce's source by specific place, and it would not surprise me if the Maine Products Board or whatever it's called sends out a few communiqués a year to the effect of "please, don't use 'Maine Lobster' generically to mean lobster from the New England/Maritimes coast".
#9
Old 09-07-2011, 08:12 PM
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Originally Posted by JRDelirious View Post
and it would not surprise me if the Maine Products Board or whatever it's called sends out a few communiqués a year to the effect of "please, don't use 'Maine Lobster' generically to mean lobster from the New England/Maritimes coast".
I'll bet it's less 'please' and more 'cease and desist'.
#10
Old 09-07-2011, 08:46 PM
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Did Ramsay throw up on the chef's shoes?

Or does he only do that for scallops?
#11
Old 09-07-2011, 10:21 PM
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I don't recall him throwing up. This is only the second or third episode of the show I've ever seen, but I know how Fox reality producers skew things even farther than the other networks.

This had nothing to do with frozen product. The lobsters were live.

Obviously, given what I've read in this thread, this was staged for the show (or maybe the lobsters were singing Bryan Adams' tunes when Ramsay was surveying them). They probably learned that the restaurant was using Canadian lobsters in another way (like looking at the receipts) and wanted a better reveal.

So a Canadian boat and a Maine boat could be lobster fishing 100 yards from each other, and there would be a worry about sourcing? It's not like they are selling Gulf shrimp (farmed in Indonesia). It is lobster coming from the exact same waters. Maine lobster is a brand, like Angus beef or Idaho potatoes.
#12
Old 09-08-2011, 01:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Odds View Post
He looked at them and said they were Canadian lobsters when the store is advertising Maine lobsters.
Quote:
Originally Posted by JRDelirious View Post
However I believe Ramsay's issue was that you just don't advertise Maine Lobster and then serve Canadian Lobster.

...it would not surprise me if the Maine Products Board or whatever it's called sends out a few communiqués a year to the effect of "please, don't use 'Maine Lobster' generically to mean lobster from the New England/Maritimes coast".
The thing is, Canadian lobster (lobster from Canada) IS Maine lobster (Homarus Americanus). Anyone selling this species of lobster is perfectly within his rights to call it Maine lobster, which is a longstanding and correct name for it. Ramsay is not only spouting a line of crap when he claims the lobster is different, he's also full of it to imply or suggest that there's any false or deceptive advertising. Note that calling it lobster FROM Maine is a whole different thing.

Lord help us if he finds a restaurant offering Welsh rarebit that's not from Wales or Italian dressing that's not from Italy.
#13
Old 09-08-2011, 07:30 AM
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Yeah, his complaint is ridiculous. Lots of lobstermen sail out of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Long Island, and even as far south as New Jersey, and you never see "New Jersey Lobster" on the menu. They're all just Homarus americanus.
#14
Old 09-08-2011, 10:22 AM
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I have seen LI lobster advertised on LI, and RI lobster advertised in RI. Those are just trying to play up the local/fresh angle though.
#15
Old 09-08-2011, 10:43 AM
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I agree, I don't think it's about the difference in the lobster. It's about lying to your customers. Playing up a local product angle deceptively. It's a silly, pointless thing to do. Your staff will talk. No one likes being forced to support a deception, even an innocuous one.
#16
Old 09-08-2011, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by elbows View Post
I agree, I don't think it's about the difference in the lobster. It's about lying to your customers. Playing up a local product angle deceptively. It's a silly, pointless thing to do. Your staff will talk. No one likes being forced to support a deception, even an innocuous one.
Maine is as local to NYC as Canada is. And while the Maine Lobster Council certainly wants you to buy from Maine fisherman, it doesn't appear to be a trademarked term. And, as others have noted, it could have been a Maine lobster a day or three before it was harvested by a Canadian fisherman. There is no bait and switch.

On the other hand, Idaho potatoes are registered, so a russet potato grown in Washington, Montana, or Wyoming can't claim to be an Idaho, even if only yards from the border (but then, potatoes don't swim like sea creatures, so a Wyoming potato was never a Idaho potato at any point in its life).
#17
Old 09-08-2011, 12:22 PM
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I can't read the thread title without imagining two lobsters fighting.

Also, Ambulatory Potato seems like it would be a great put down.
#18
Old 09-08-2011, 12:44 PM
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Plus, this is in New York City - he was probably feeding off the Fox network attitude of "you don't want to be selling no evil Canadian products to New Yorkers and True Americans, now do you?"
#19
Old 09-08-2011, 12:56 PM
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So, to me, it sounds like there are people who use the term 'Maine lobster' to refer to a crustacean species found over a wide range of the Northeast coast, and people who want to use the term to specifically refer to lobster that are caught off the coast of the state of Maine.

Yeah, this is gonna end well for everybody.
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Last edited by chrisk; 09-08-2011 at 12:57 PM.
#20
Old 09-08-2011, 01:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Labrador Deceiver View Post
There are some differences in how they run their operations. Canadian lobsters are almost certainly caught by a large corporate enterprise.
I'm pretty sure that most lobster fishing is done by small independent boats. The processing on the other hand is pretty much dominated by a few large corporations who set the prices for the entire Atlantic Canada region.

Here in Prince Edward Island it's common for these small fishermen to get a peddler's license and sell live lobster in front of gas stations or corner stores for $5/lb. When I was did up a feed of lobster for ten people this summer I drove to the wharf and watched the boat come in. Now that's fresh lobster!
#21
Old 09-08-2011, 01:57 PM
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Originally Posted by mnemosyne View Post
Plus, this is in New York City - he was probably feeding off the Fox network attitude of "you don't want to be selling no evil Canadian products to New Yorkers and True Americans, now do you?"
Born and bred NYCians think anything north of Westchester County is Canada, including that city that pretends to be our state capital.
#22
Old 09-08-2011, 02:52 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by D_Odds View Post
Are the waters off of the coast of Maine where they pull the lobsters be that much different than the waters off of New Brunswick or Nova Scotia? Does a Canadian lobster have a different taste or texture than a Maine lobster? Are there perhaps different subspecies?
John Hodgman explains:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Wikipedia. It must be true, it's in Wikipedia!
... lobsters as we know them today were not introduced to Maine until the turn of the century, after Theodore Roosevelt built a secret canal from lobster-ridden New York City to the coast of Maine. Before that time, writes Hodgman, an entirely different animal - particularly "a kind of sea otter" - was known in Maine as the "lobster" (the photo ... at right is included with the caption "Figure 11: The Lobster"). The new lobster threatened the existence of the "Old Lobster," the last of which died in 1980, in the kitchen of a Furry Old Lobster restaurant...
#23
Old 09-08-2011, 03:04 PM
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Originally Posted by Anonymous Coward View Post
I'm pretty sure that most lobster fishing is done by small independent boats. The processing on the other hand is pretty much dominated by a few large corporations who set the prices for the entire Atlantic Canada region.

Here in Prince Edward Island it's common for these small fishermen to get a peddler's license and sell live lobster in front of gas stations or corner stores for $5/lb. When I was did up a feed of lobster for ten people this summer I drove to the wharf and watched the boat come in. Now that's fresh lobster!
Back when I lived in Ocean View section of Norfolk VA, and was broke all the time [barely making minimum wage as a security guard] I used to take a package of chicken backs, a huge cooler and a set of tidewater nets, pay a buck to get onto the lynnhaven pier, bait and toss the nets, and set a kitchen timer for 45 minutes. I would get up, pull in the nets, drop the crabs into the cooler and lather, rinse and repeat for about 6 or 7 hours, then I would take my catch, trade everything except for a dozen or so crabs to a local fish market for other stuff [shrimp, scallops, cod fillets, stuff I wanted] and head home. I would get together with a few friends, who would bring stuff to drink, hushpuppy makings, salt potato makings, cobs of corn and so forth. We would do up a seafood boil and all eat. Costs us an average of less than $2 a person to feed that evening and have leftovers enough for everybody to have a second meal. And I got my sleep for the day in =)

Sometimes I would just make up a batch of chowder for myself, and live off of it for the rest of the week. All depended on what was happening.

I don't care where the bug is fished up, I go for the way it looks and fights back more than price. I dont care if it is cheaper, I want good fighty bug. Means it is healthy.
#24
Old 09-08-2011, 03:12 PM
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Originally Posted by D_Odds View Post
potatoes don't swim like sea creatures
Another childhood belief crushed.
#25
Old 09-08-2011, 04:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Teufelblitz View Post
Also, Ambulatory Potato seems like it would be a great put down.
Band name!
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