Lobster: Now Cheaper Than Deli Meat

Thanks to a glut of soft-shell lobsters, prices for the tasty crustaceans have plummeted as low as $4 a pound

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Jim Young / Reuters

Commercial fisherman Chris Welch throws an undersized lobster back into the water in Kennebunkport, Maine.

Lobster: It’s not just for millionaires’ feasts any more. In fact, folks of far more modest means can now afford to have lobster for dinner. And for lunch. And even breakfast. With a glut of the crustaceans now hitting the market, Maine lobstermen are slashing prices on the delicacy just in time for the summer tourist rush.

On the docks of Portland, Me., the per-pound prices of small, soft-shell lobsters have bottomed out below $4 per pound, making lobster cheaper than your typical deli meat. Talk about putting a bit of punch into your lunchbox.

(MORE: Toddler-Sized Lobster Returns to Atlantic Ocean)

While soft-shell lobsters typically fetch much less per pound than the fancier hard-shell varieties — which is still the case this year — the increased and early appearance of the less meaty lobster has surprised consumers. With distributors needing to move so many lobsters out the door, retailers have slashed prices to keep the product fresh.

Typically lobsters start shedding their hard shells for softer ones—soft enough you can crack them by hand—around the Fourth of July. But lobstermen, who are the ones taking the biggest hit over the big catches, started catching the soft-shell varieties in mid-June, nearly a month earlier than normal, and the catch has been flooding the market.

For Maine-based lobstermen, Canadian processing plants usually absorb any extra catches nicely. But  Canadian plants already had a backlog from their own extra-large lobster haul. And since soft-shell lobsters are too delicate to ship long distances, only local retailers and processing facilities can handle the onslaught. The only way to clear out the lobster excess and give the product a price rebound will be if consumers and tourists take advantage of the new low prices and balance out the market.

So, buying now at the new low prices will help lobstermen in the long run and also improve the meat-to-bread ratio in your lobster roll.

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