Get ready to pay more for your lobster rolls this summer, because just like everything else in the food biz, the price of those succulent little sea monsters has shot up to record highs. How high, you ask?
Lobster rolls have never been the cheapest of summer snacks, and this year, wholesale prices have forced Kingston to raise the price of his to $24.95 a pop. During last year’s lost summer, lobster rolls at the Clam Shack were only $18.95. A bit over 70 miles away in Wiscasset, lobster rolls at the famous Red’s Eats — where the wait can stretch over an hour and a half during peak season— are currently going for $30; down from two weeks ago, when market price had pushed the price up to $34.
These skyrocketing prices can partially be attributed to America’s insatiable thirst for lobster meat; retail demand increased as more people learned how to cook lobsters at home during the pandemic, and now supermarkets, fishmongers, and restaurants are all competing against each other for a limited lobster supply, thus driving up the prices.
And that supply isn’t limited for any particularly out-of-the-ordinary reason—it’s simply because the lobster industry is notoriously inefficient, and unable to keep up with the current surge in demand. Annie Tselikis, the executive director of the Maine Lobster Dealers’ Association, tells the Times that there are about 4,500 licensed lobstermen in the state, and each of them works as an independent operator that’s relatively disconnected from the industrialized supply chain. Then, there’s the issue of lobster processing.
“We don’t have a lot of automation in this industry because we’re dealing with an animal that has two large claws, eight legs, a tail and an exoskeleton,” said Tselikis. “In order for that lobster to get out of the ocean and to a consumer is an incredible process. This isn’t a hot dog. It isn’t a hamburger.”
If there’s a silver lining to all this, perhaps its that these high prices will convince people to start exploring the other menu offerings at Maine’s seafood shacks, which are as good, if not better, than lobster rolls. Maybe this is finally the year that fried clams become the national phenomenon they’ve long deserved to be.