Seafood Fact or Fiction, Round Two

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How to find fresh fish. The best seafood restaurants. What time of year is optimal to eat local shellfish. Just how big a jumbo shrimp must be. We have to face it – in the technical and safety – conscious world of seafood, there is a lot to know! All of this can make the topic of seafood fertile ground for tall tales and misconceptions.  It’s time for another round of true or false questions to hammer down the truth about some seafood ideas that are floating around. Are they fact or fiction?

 

T or F: Female lobsters are known to be better tasting than male lobsters.

F (unless you really like roe)5

This photo of a male lobster and that of a female lobster below left of it showcase the tendency of the males to have larger claws while the females have wider tails.

Though this belief shows up fairly often online, it is false. This is because the meat of male and female lobsters is known to be indistinguishable in taste. Those who hold that female lobsters are the better tasting could only have an argument if  roe (eggs that have not been fertilized) is their favorite part of the lobster. This is since, as might be imagined, only female lobsters can carry roe5,. Consequently, when that steaming lobster is put down before you at a restaurant, you need not stress about a 50% chance of being short – changed on taste5.

Despite their uniform flavors, male and female lobsters are somewhat differently shaped. In females, the tail tends to be wider than in males. By contrast, males are known for having larger claws in proportion to the rest of their bodies5. There is no significant difference, however, in the overall amount of meat that you are getting in a male versus a female lobster6.

 

T or F: As a shark only needs to lose its fin for shark fin soup to be made, the animal isn’t killed by the process.

F

Shark fin soup.

Shark fin soup is an expensive dish served in China, typically only to the wealthy and often on important occasions. It is only the fin of a shark  that goes into shark fin soup, but it turns out that the shark does die after the capture where its fin is removed. When its fin has been taken, the shark is basically left to die at sea.  Despite the sacrifice of an entire shark to make shark fin soup, the fin does not even influence the soup’s taste (it is included to enhance texture)2!

In view of the  wastefulness of shark finning, some countries have outlawed killing a shark for only the fin. The United Arab Emirates now requires that captors bring the entire body of a finned shark to shore with them – presumably so that it can be used2.

A shark is captured and its fin removed to obtain the fin for shark fin soup. Unfortunately, the rest of the animal is then put back into the water and dies.

 

T or F: Some say that oysters should only be eaten during months ending in “r”, but in reality it is safe to eat them year – round.

T

While it is likely that oysters were only safe to eat during the cooler  months of the year (consider that all months ending in “r” are not in the heart of summer) before refrigeration, today oysters can safely be eaten year – round. Before refrigerators, oysters that were caught and offered for sale spent long periods of time uncooled. Particularly during the warmer months, this opened the door for spoilage. Today, however, it is required that oysters for sale be consistently refrigerated1.

Though oysters are safe to eat all year long, their quality might be lower during warmer months. This is owing to the fact that the warmer time of the year is also the oysters’ mating season. During this period, an oyster expends less energy than usual on growth since it is using more of this energy for reproduction. The texture of an oyster also chances to be a bit different in the warmer months, but – again – it is perfectly safe to eat throughout the year1.

 

T or F: When crayfish are boiled in Cajun cooking, they usually bend their tails. It is safe, though, to eat a crayfish whose tail remains straight during heating1.

T

A boiled crayfish whose tail did not bend is not necessarily cause for alarm!

There is a widely – held belief that, when eating boiled crayfish, one should avoid any crayfish whose tail remained stiff during boiling. This comes from the idea that any crayfish whose tail did not assume the characteristic bend while cooked was actually already dead before heating. This would render the crayfish bad – tasting and unsafe to eat1.

At the LSU AgCenter in Louisiana, however, researchers have stated that boiled crayfish with taut tails are as they are only due to the laws of physics. How a crayfish is situated with respect to the other crayfish during heating can also keep its tail from  bending1.

 

T or F: A fish that is born male will always die male.

F

You need to pay attention to the word always above. Yes, a fish typically remains one sex throughout its lifetime. There are, though,

exceptions. Certain fishes (and yes, when describing more than one species of fish the correct term is fishes) can switch from male to female and vice versa. This changing of sex over time is known as sequential hermaphroditism. Sequential hermaphroditism can happen in response to members of the same species nearby being male or female. Take the clownfish, which you may remember from the Pixar film Finding Nemo, for example. Clownfish live in sea anemones in groups made up of one mature male and female (who mate to produce young) along with many immature males. Should the one female of the group die or be otherwise lost, the sexually mature male then becomes female to replace her. The second largest male then grows and becomes sexually mature so as to be able to breed with the new female3.

A fish born female can also become male in some species, as with the Indo – Pacific cleaner wrasse. An Indo – Pacific cleaner wrasse comes into the world as a female, which lives in a group composed of all females with one male. When the male of a group is lost, the largest female in the group then becomes male so that breeding is still possible3.

 

T or F: A shrimp needs to be above a certain weight to be called “jumbo”.

F

In the seafood industry, shrimp size is measured by how many of a given shrimp would be needed to make a pound. For example, if a shrimp’s size is “7”, it means that  you would find seven of that shrimp if you bought one pound of that type. Jumbo shrimp is a term that can have a very lose meaning indeed.  What one vendor labels “jumbo shrimp” could be considered medium shrimp by another4. At Atlantic Seafood, however, you can be sure that a jumbo shrimp is large – with only seven to eight weighing a pound. These shrimp are excellent for stuffed shrimp and other jumbo shrimp recipes such as Lemon Spaghetti with Jumbo Shrimp,
Jumbo Shrimp Stuffed with Cilantro and Chiles and Jumbo Shrimp Parmesan.

 

 

Works Cited

1. “5 SEAFOOD MYTHS – BUSTED!”.
“KEEP UP WITH LOUISIANA SEAFOOD”, www.louisianaseafood.com/news/5-seafood-myths-busted.
Retrieved 26 Oct. 2018.

2. Myers, Gregory. “10 Seafood Facts That Will Surprise You”.
LISTVERSE, 31 Aug. 2014, listverse.com/2014/08/31/10-seafood-facts-that-will-surprise-you/.

3. “Gender – bending fish”.
Understanding Evolution your one – stop source for information on evolution, evolution.berkeley.edu/evolibrary/article/fishtree_07.
Retrieved 26 Oct. 2018.

4. “7 SEAFOOD MYTHS & FACTS”.
The Clam Box, 2 Jan. 2017, http://www.theoriginalclambox.com/7-seafood-myths-facts/.

5. Fulton, Wil. “The Fishiest Myths About Seafood, Debunked By Chefs”.
THRILLIST, 14 Sept. 2018, www.thrillist.com/eat/nation/seafood-myths-oysters-shrimp-fish-facts.

6. “Top Ten Lobster Myths Exposed”.
LobsterAnywhere.com, https://lobsteranywhere.com/seafood-savvy/lobster-myths/.
Retrieved 28 Oct. 2018.

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