Maine Lobster: Soft-shell versus Hard shell

Maine Lobster: Soft-shell versus Hard shell

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Maine Lobster: Soft-shell versus Hard shell

A lobster must shed its shell in order to grow. It takes about five to seven years for a lobster to become a legal size harvestable adult. Soft-shell is the term used for a newly molted lobster. A soft-shell lobster has a shell with room for growth. Soft-shell lobsters are not as full of meat because their new shell is larger than the muscle inside the body. The part not filled with its body’s muscle tissue is filled with water. Soft-shell lobsters may look big on the outside, but they have a much lower meat yield on the inside. Most adult lobsters molt from June to September depending upon location and water temperatures.

Hard-shell lobster is a lobster with an old shell whose body has completely filled its shell. A hard-shell lobster is a fully meated lobster which is mainly caught during the winter and spring months of the fishing season. During these months, lobsters are at their peak health and condition, and the meat yields are at their highest.

Why do consumers prefer soft-shell lobsters to hard-shell lobsters? Many consumers prefer soft-shell lobsters over hard-shell lobsters because of several reasons. According to some people, meat from soft-shell lobsters is more tender than from hard-shell ones. They contend that the meat is sweeter and juicier than the hard-shell lobsters. In addition, some people prefer soft-shell lobsters because they do not need any tools to crack them apart. Moreover, some people prefer soft-shell lobsters because they are less expensive than hard-shell ones. If you are looking for cheap and abundant soft-shell lobsters, then the summer months are good because the weather does not keep lobstermen from fishing them.

Why do consumers prefer hard-shell lobsters to soft-shell lobsters? Many consumers prefer hard-shell lobsters over soft-shell lobsters because of several reasons. Hard-shell lobster contains fifty percent more meat than the same size soft-shell lobster. Hard-shell meat is firmer, while soft-shell meat is softer and tends to have more water. Furthermore, hard-shell lobsters ship better than soft-shell lobsters because they are less likely to crack en route. If you are looking for hard-shell lobsters, the winter months are ideal for this, but prices are higher because it is more trying for lobstermen to be out in the elements.

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I, too, prefer hard-shell lobsters to soft-shell lobsters because of the aforementioned reasons. Cracking a hard-shell Maine lobster takes some effort, but the results are worth it.

Do lobstermen benefit economically from harvesting soft-shell verses hard-shell lobsters? This is a difficult question to answer because lobstering is not only their profession, but often their livelihood as well. Nonetheless, some say yes and some say no. The price of lobsters in the winter is a lot different than in the summer. You can get a better price for lobsters in the winter months because you get a better quality lobster and the demand is greater. The demand is greater because there are not as many lobstermen fishing in the winter season, so the dealers want all the lobsters that the lobstermen can give them.

Whichever way your pleasure tends, either soft-shell or hard-shell, Maine lobster is one of the ocean’s most prized catches. It can be steamed, boiled, broiled, baked, grilled, stir-fried or sautéed. Maine lobster is simple, delicious, nutritious and versatile. More often than not, Maine lobster will star as the main attraction whenever it is served.

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Acheson, James. The Lobster Gangs of Maine. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England, 1998.

Cobb, J. S., and Bruce Phillips. The Biology and Management of Lobsters. New York: Academic Press, 1980.

Dueland, Joy. The Book of the Lobster. Somersworth, NH: New Hampshire Publishing Co., 1973.

Prudden, Theodore. About Lobsters. Freeport, ME: Bond Wheelwright Co., 1973.

Taylor, Herb. The Lobster, Its Life Cycle. New York: 1975.

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