February 13, 2007

Ways to Kill a Lobster

Filed under: nature — ted @ 11:08 am

Lobster’s have a “secret life”? Apparently. Via The Secret Life of Lobsters, a fascinating story about how Whole Foods has employed a giant machine that removes the shell from the lobster, while simultaneously killing all the bacteria — all in the name of humanity.

You press the start button on an Avure machine. Powerful pumps whir, and inside a narrow tube in the center of the machine, the water pressure is compressed to several times the pressure found in the deepest trenches in the ocean. The microscopic bugs in your meal all die, giving the food extended shelf life, and reducing the need for artificial preservatives.

These machines have been in use for a while already. If you’ve ever eaten Avoclasic guacamole or Hormel Natural Choice deli meats, you’ve eaten HPP food. HPP machines turn out to be handy for shucking shellfish, too — the pressure causes the meat to separate from the shell.

What’s new is using these machines to process live lobsters. The animals are locked inside the tube, alive, and the pumps whir and the water pressure is compressed around the lobsters to three times the deepest trenches in the ocean. The lobsters die, of course — just think what the pressure on your ears is like when you dive a few feet underwater.

At the same time, all the muscle flesh inside the lobsters conveniently separates from the shell. For the first time in human history, people have finally devised way to extract the meat of a lobster without cooking it.

After it’s been processed, the lobster looks like this:

This is very foolish: just because you’re not the one dropping the lobster into the boiling pot and hearing it scream doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been harmed between the ocean and your table. Out of sight…



  1. That’s upsetting…

    Comment by rachel — February 14, 2007 @ 11:50 am

  2. do they die faster or slower than when they are dropped in boiling water? do you think this is more or less painful as the method? it’s probably all relative experientially from the perspective of the perishing lobster, it’s just that this appears more extravagantly gruesome to our eyes.

    in any event, i hope this never catches on to the point where it replaces eating lobster the old-fashioned way, which is half the fun.

    Comment by sarah — February 15, 2007 @ 5:52 pm

  3. It’s not a matter of objective pain from the lobster’s perspective — it’s about not having to kill the lobster yourself. When the lobster’s death has taken place at a time and in a place unknown to you, it feels more humane, even if it’s not.

    My response is just “they’re only lobsters,” but that probably won’t satisfy everyone.

    Comment by Ted — February 15, 2007 @ 5:55 pm

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