Why Were Lobsters Once Prison Food?

Why Were Lobsters Once Prison Food?


According to The Marshall Project, a nonprofit
publication that covers the criminal-justice system in the US, the budget per meal in jails
and prisons in the United States is as little as $0.56. An example of a meal from a state prison might
be something like 2 to 3 ounces of meat or meat byproduct, half a cup of vegetables,
three-quarters of a cup of a starch, and three-quarters of a cup of salad with dressing. That doesn’t sound too bad but then on such
a low budget the prison kitchen is never going to be serving up a Masterchef meal. However, there was a time when some items
on the prison menu looked more like what you would see on a 5-star restaurant menu. And that’s what we’ll be looking at today,
in this episode of The Infographics Show: Why were lobsters once gruel and prison food? Changing weather conditions and crop shortages
are just some of the reasons why buying a lobster roll at your local restaurant is more
expensive than ever. The price of these marine crustaceans has
nearly doubled, due to bad weather plaguing New England in 2018, preventing fishermen
from reaching the fishing grounds and bringing back fresh supplies of these tasty sea creatures. “The supply has been frozen up a little
bit, literally,” Matt Jacobson, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative,
told Moneyish. “This winter and spring have been really
cold and icy in the Northeast; you haven’t seen as much supply because boats just haven’t
been able to go out. It’s an outdoor sport — it’s not a farm.” Why is lobster such a sought after dish in
the first place? It’s probably less to do with the taste
and more to do with the lack of availability in general. The more rare something is, the higher the
price and greater the appeal. Lobsters are rare because farming them is
difficult. They grow slowly, eat a lot, are susceptible
to disease, and their eggs are difficult to raise, so nearly all the lobsters that end
up on our dinner plates are caught in the wild. And keeping lobsters alive when shipping is
also challenging because they need to stay cool and moist, as well as having enough oxygen
to breathe and live. So it’s almost like running an aquarium
on the fishing boat and this drives the price up further. What’s even more interesting is that the
high price tag could even have a bearing on how our taste buds react to food, in this
case tasty morsels of lobster meat. A study carried out by Cornell University
found diners tend to rate the quality of their food higher if they pay more for it, and people
who pay less for the same exact meal report feeling more guilty, bloated and uncomfortable. The researchers offered 139 diners an all-you-can-eat
buffet at a classy Italian restaurant for either $4 or $8. Though the diners ate the same food, those
who paid $8 rated their meal on average 11% higher, than those who paid $4. “If the food is there, you are going to
eat it, but the pricing very much affects how you are going to feel about your meal
and how you will evaluate the restaurant,” Ozge Sigirci, one of the researchers who conducted
the study, told Newswise. Ok, so lobster may even taste better in 2018
because of the high price tag, but lobster in prisons? …The night before convicted murderer Ronnie
Lee Gardner was executed by firing squad in Utah, he ordered his final meal, as all death
row prisoners are granted the request. He asked for lobster tail, steak, apple pie
and vanilla ice cream. Murderer Allen Lee Davis also ordered a lobster
tail, a half pound of deep fried shrimp, fried potatoes, fried clams, garlic bread and root
beer. Lobster is popular on death row, but do death
row meals really count? A few millennia ago, lobsters weren’t only
a death row request they were also on the main menu and to understand why we have to
jump back in time, to the 17th century…When colonists first arrived on the shores of New
England, they faced a problem people would wish for today: an overabundance of lobsters,
which were literally washing up on beaches, in drifts two-feet tall. William Wood, a 17th century British historian
who visited Newfoundland was quoted as saying “Their plenty makes them little esteemed and
seldom eaten, except by the Indians who get many of them every day for to bait their hooks
withal and to eat when they can get no bass.” People were able to eat so much lobster they
got sick of it. David Foster Wallace was an American writer
and university instructor who, in his essay titled Consider the Lobster, he noted that
the shellfish was eaten as common food during the Colonial-era in America. Because of its abundance, it was considered
an insect of the sea; a dish for peasants, that shouldn’t be served on the tables of
the wealthy and respectable. Instead it became the staple diet for prisoners. Jailers were even forced to limit the amount
of lobster they could feed their prisoners. The prisoners, it seemed, thought the constant
lobster dinners constituted “cruel and unusual” punishment. As well as criminals, lobster meat was fed
to livestock. According to 19th century Kentucky politician
and social observer, John Rowan, the meat quickly became synonymous with lower classes
of society, “Lobster shells about a house are looked upon as signs of poverty and degradation”
he said. This attitude towards lobsters lasted for
years into the 1800’s- during the Victorian era it cost roughly 53 cents per pound for
Boston baked beans yet only 11 cents per pound for lobster. Lobster was still considered something you’d
feed to your cat, not put on your own plate. By the 1940’s American customers could buy
lobster meat in cans just like spam or tuna, but supplies eventually dwindled, with fewer
lobsters available and fisherman having to head in to deeper waters to bring back supplies. Canned lobster ceased to be profitable and
live lobsters grew in status as they became more and more expensive. A meal that cost $4 in the 1870’s cost $30
or more a century later. What was once in plentiful supply and even
the lowliest servant once refused, the swankiest restaurateur now offers with pride, and often
at the highest price on the menu. Is it really worth it? Do you enjoy eating lobster or do you think
the taste is overpriced and overrated? Let us know by commenting in the notes. Also be sure to check out our other video,
GROSS Food In Other Countries. Thanks for tuning in to this episode of The
Infographics Show and remember to like, share and subscribe.

100 Replies to “Why Were Lobsters Once Prison Food?

  1. So it's kinda like caviar the rarer it is the more expensive, I think lobster meat taste good. Also caviar is gross

  2. Lobster is most certainly overpriced and overrated. I've had it several times at various quality restaurants. I firmly believe that, while it IS a tasty meal, it is most certainly not worth the high price tag that fancy restaurants ask for it, as a "cheap" restaurant's lobster is roughly the same (and sometimes even tastier).

    Like the video states, people only think it's great because our current culture says it is.

  3. Thanks . . . . pretty well done. Always had this question in my head. ( No, I don't eat, nor care to eat, something as disgusting as lobster or crab, ect. – spiders, cockroach of the sea.) Yet, as you point out, it's all perspective, marketing, pricing. Sick really . . . . .

  4. Prisoners should be given thrown away food, if none left then dog food, its calles prison not a 1 star hotel

  5. huh. apparently it seems like the budget is more than school's budget…
    but then again the school could be ripped off too so you never know

  6. Lobster have always been trash its just the hype people make for it. Also the supply is fake news we never are scarce of lobster again its a fake hype.

  7. I can't believe this video completely ignored the fact that we prepare lobster differently now than they did in the past. Back in the days when lobster was considered a trash food, it was cooked dead like any other fish. Apparently lobster is a lot tastier if boiled alive, or just after killing it.

  8. Part of thinking more expensive = more enjoying the food is that you usually think the quality of ingredients higher. Buffet steak vs a expensive steak. You expect the expensive steak to be a quality cut while buffet would be low quality cut

  9. I eat only one time in my life shark meat!But i forgeted how taste is because i eated when i have only 7 years!

  10. Whenever I ate lobster I would just be confused and disappointed because I wouldn’t enjoy it but I didn’t know why when you SHOULD like lobster, right?? It took years for me to finally admit to myself that I just don’t like it!! Give me crab, oyster, mussel, shrimp… they’re WAY better!

  11. It’s not like lobster is only for the rich now. I mean you can go to red lobster and get them for only $20.

  12. Here in Texas,Houston lobsters are a common food to eat,as we normally get around 10 between 30 lobsters for a cheap amount,and its delicious.

  13. Someone told me lobster it's technically an overgrown shrimp (taste similar, tho the shrimp seems to have better taste overall)

  14. The reverse is true of chicken, which in the past were a lot smaller and expensive served on special occasions as a whole roast. Now they are bred to be abnormally meaty and large and farmed on a level that makes them incredibly inexpensive. Supposedly they used to taste a lot better, though.

  15. "A few millenia ago…."
    "Jump back in time to the 17th century…"

    I'm not sure you understand what the word "millenia" means.

  16. some lobsters are blue! even more rare, some lobsters a blue with a stripe in the middle and regular on the other side. 200 year old giant lobsters sometimes get caught, but out of ethics they are often released.

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