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The Hidden Dangers of Grocery Store Lobster Tanks

Beware of this grocery store lobster gimmick

The lure of lobster

Lobster, with its sweet and rich flavor, has long been associated with decadence and special occasions. It’s a delicacy that many people dream of indulging in, especially for romantic dinners. However, the high cost of lobster often makes it a rare treat rather than a regular part of our culinary repertoire. Nevertheless, for those special occasions or when we want to impress our loved ones, we may venture to our local supermarket in search of the perfect lobster.

The supermarket dilemma

Picture this: You’ve gathered all the ingredients for a romantic dinner, including candles, salad fixings, and the best silverware you can find. You head to the seafood section of the supermarket, where you come across a large aquarium filled with live lobsters. It seems like a great opportunity to pick out the freshest lobster and create a memorable meal. But is it really the best choice?

The downside of aquarium lobsters

According to experts, choosing a lobster straight from the tank at the grocery store may not guarantee the freshness you want. Chef Kysha Harris of The Spruce Eats explains that lobsters in tanks can lose quality over time. This is especially true in supermarkets far from the East Coast, where lobsters are plentiful and fresh. In landlocked states or areas with less demand for lobster, the crustaceans may have been sitting in tanks for weeks.

Geographic factors

The quality of lobsters in supermarket tanks can vary by geographic location. Lobsters from the East Coast, such as Maine or Rhode Island, tend to be fresher due to their proximity to the ocean and high demand. On the other hand, lobsters from areas further from the coast may not be as fresh. If you have the option, it is recommended that you purchase your lobster from a coastal seafood market to ensure optimal freshness.

The decline of the lobster tank

In recent years, the presence of live lobster tanks in supermarkets has diminished. In 2006, Whole Foods made the decision to stop selling live lobsters and crabs, citing concerns about the inhumane treatment of these creatures. Other supermarkets have followed suit, opting to offer frozen lobster instead. While some supermarkets may still have lobster tanks, it is wise to consider the alternatives.

Exploring frozen lobster

If you can’t find a fresh lobster at a coastal fish market or your local supermarket doesn’t carry live lobsters, frozen lobster may be a viable option. Freezing lobster helps preserve its quality and flavor, so you can enjoy a delicious meal without sacrificing freshness. Frozen lobster is often readily available in many supermarkets and seafood specialty stores, making it a convenient choice for seafood lovers.

Make an informed choice

When it comes to choosing the best lobster for your special meal, it’s important to consider the factors at play. While the allure of picking a live lobster from a tank may be appealing, the freshness and quality may not always live up to your expectations. Geographical location, proximity to the coast, and the availability of coastal fish markets all play a role in ensuring the freshness of the lobster you choose.

Bottom line

The next time you embark on a lobster dinner adventure, beware of the grocery store lobster gimmick. While the tanks of live lobsters may catch your eye, they may not guarantee the freshness you desire. It’s worth exploring alternative options, such as shopping at coastal fish markets or opting for frozen lobster, to ensure a truly delightful and satisfying dining experience. Remember, an informed choice will take your lobster dinner from a gimmick to a culinary masterpiece.


Why should I be careful when choosing a lobster from a grocery store tank?

Lobsters in grocery store tanks may not be as fresh as you expect, especially if they’re far from the coast. The quality of lobsters can deteriorate over time, affecting their taste and texture.

Are East Coast lobsters generally fresher?

Yes, lobsters from the East Coast, such as Maine or Rhode Island, tend to be fresher due to their proximity to the ocean and higher demand. Coastal areas often have better access to fresh seafood.

Why have some supermarkets stopped selling live lobsters?

Concerns about the ethical treatment of live lobsters led some supermarkets, such as Whole Foods, to stop selling live lobsters and crabs. This decision was made to address the potential inhumane treatment of these creatures.

Can I still find fresh lobster at the grocery store?

While some supermarkets still offer live lobsters in tanks, their availability has decreased. It’s a good idea to explore alternative options such as coastal fish markets or frozen lobster to ensure freshness and quality.

Is frozen lobster a good option?

Yes, frozen lobster can be a convenient and reliable alternative. Freezing helps preserve the quality and flavor of the lobster, making it a viable choice, especially if you can’t find fresh options in your area.

How can I make an informed choice when choosing a lobster?

Consider geography, proximity to the coast, and availability of coastal seafood markets. Research local seafood sources, inquire about the freshness of the lobster, and explore frozen options if necessary to ensure a satisfying dining experience.

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