Why is Seafood So Expensive? 8 Reasons

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Prices of seafood have constantly been increasing over the years, making it one of the most expensive, if not the most costly, protein sources on the market.

Seafood is expensive due to many factors, including increasing demand, cost of transportation, cost of preservatives, difficulty in preparation, how difficult the resources are to obtain, etc.

It doesn’t seem like the prices aren’t going down anytime soon especially seeing as the possibility of the fish becoming rare is possible.

The seafood prices range widely, usually depending on the type of animals involved and whether they are raised on a fish farm or gotten from the wild. While seafood quality diminishes quickly, there are some steps to ensure that they are delivered and cooked in the top condition possible.

Why is Seafood So Expensive
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Check out some of the reasons why seafood is so expensive below.

Top 8 Reasons Seafood is So Expensive

1. Transport Logistics

You can deliver food from land sources by fast and cheap means of transportation such as trucks and rails, but this is not so with seafood. Since the high demand for seafood is because people want it fresh, there is difficulty transporting it from one location to another. Seafood doesn’t last very long fresh, so this brings the need to transport it by air or with overnight buses for quick delivery.

Another factor that pushes the transport price up is preserving the product from source to destination. Many of these preservation methods aren’t cheap, and all of these play a factor in the final price you purchase from restaurants.

The flavor of seafood changes within 24 hours, and stale products are usually not acceptable cause they are needed as fresh as possible from the ocean. Manual labor required for all these activities is another factor that increases the cost because it involves a lot of workforce, and you need to pay the laborers need to be paid.

2. Supply and Demand

Seafood has a very high demand, especially as a good source of proteins. The laws of demand and supply affect the prices of goods a lot. In the case of seafood, we have high demand and low supply, which makes the prices rise. Increased costs will balance the supply with demand and meet what is needed.

Since we can’t increase seafood supply as quickly, we can do the same for meat; this problem will continue for a while. Also, due to water pollution and overfishing, we face a case where the resources (animals) are reducing and slowly becoming extinct. Meanwhile, the population of people keeps increasing exponentially, and as a result, the prices will keep growing.

3. High Mortality Rate (Difficult to maintain)

The two options for seafood are farm-raised and wild-caught. Even though catching seafood out in the wild is difficult, it doesn’t mean farm-raised seafood isn’t without its challenges. Fish farming needs a lot of resources and proper management for success.

Fish farming requires more skill than plant farming or livestock rearing, even under desirable weather and climate conditions. Aquaculturists need to place the fishes in specific places so that they do not die and have the right conditions for survival.

Also, this task requires a high level of skill, so the few fish farms available usually charge more for their products due to the quality service that isn’t easily gotten elsewhere.

4. Difficult to Obtain

Seafood Difficult to Obtain
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As we highlighted in the previous point, catching seafood in the wild is challenging and requires a high skill level. You will need big fishing setups (rigs) and costly equipment.

The laborers or fishers typically go out into the sea and cast the huge nets from their boats. After that, they have to wait till the trap has caught a considerable amount, usually at least half the net, before they can withdraw it and get the fish/animals.

Since the sea where they are going to fish has no medical facilities or any facility, they usually treat fishing as a massive exhibition that they plan correctly for a long time, so there are no hitches in execution. To prepare for any unforeseen circumstances, they also take medical supplies in case of any incident out at sea.

5. Health Food Sources

People have been becoming more and more aware of the consequences of eating meat in recent times, such as high cholesterol. This has caused people to look for other sources of nourishment, and seafood is the easy answer to that.

Seafood has high amounts of protein, Vitamin D, Phosphate, Calcium, Zinc, Vitamin B2, and Omega-3 fatty acids, amongst other healthy minerals. Seafood is the healthier choice for meals, and as people are increasingly more concerned for their health, the demand rises.

6. The Rarity of the Seafood

As we’ve previously explained, seafood is generally difficult to obtain, but some more than others. There is very rare seafood, and you can only find these in specific places. Some examples are caviar, oysters, lobsters, etc. These are examples of seafood that are usually more expensive than others because they aren’t readily available.

It isn’t uncommon for some people to wait for specific seasons for some seafood as that is the only time they are available in their locality. If you encounter these varieties of seafood off-season, the restaurants will charge a premium for it.

7. Cooking Difficulty

There are many different types of seafood categories, and there are some that require a lot of effort and resources to cook correctly. Some of the preparation techniques usually require expensive cooking lessons. It takes the highest level of skills and chefs to prepare seafood, so quality raises the price.

An example of a seafood dish that requires special skills is Japanese pufferfish. These are poisonous fishes, and chefs must have cooked for themselves or others multiple times before serving them at a restaurant. Another example of this is octopuses that need a lot of heat within a short time to cook properly without getting burnt.

8. No Subsidies for Fishermen

Fishers do not receive the same benefits farmers receive from the government. Farmers have access to loans to start their business, tax cuts in some places, or even sponsorship to begin farming. On the other hand, Fishermen don’t have such luxury, and it doesn’t seem like that will be changing anytime soon.

Government regulations also determine which fishes they can farm, the number of fishes that anglers can catch, and the processes used to get the fish. They need licenses for people to take part in fishing, and these licenses are usually expensive, costing a lot of money straight from their pockets.

Flouting any rules or refusing to get approvals can lead to sanctions. All these sanctions and limitations, including the risks involved, raise the cost of production, which increases the prices of seafood.

Why is Seafood So Expensive: FAQs

What seafood is the most expensive?

Blue-fin Tuna is the most expensive type of seafood right now. Blue-fin tuna is the crucial ingredient for making tuna; this makes it one of the seafood in highest demand. There is also a risk of this seafood going extinct because it is a rare commodity. This fish has a very exquisite and luxurious taste that you can’t find anywhere else.

Why is shrimp so expensive?

Shrimp is expensive because of its very high demand. It is an excellent source of protein, but the supply is low primarily due to horrible farming activities and the type of shrimp. Some reasons why they are expensive are:

  • The cost importation
  • High demand
  • High mortality rate
  • Shrimps are good for Human health
  • Prices vary according to the type and sizes
  • Time-consuming to harvest

Why did crab get so expensive?

Crabs, like most other seafood, are expensive and also seen as food for the Elite “fine dining.” Just shrimp, crabs rank high on the most demanded seafood. Some other reasons they are expensive are:

  • Rules and regulations concerning catching them
  • High cost of importation and exportation
  • High demand
  • Lower supply than demand
  • Different variations of crabs make them have separate prices

Why are lobsters so expensive?

Lobsters are very expensive due to only being gotten from water or riverine areas. Their natural habitat is ocean water, making it difficult to rear them because creating a similar condition to a place for them to live and grow would be very expensive and impossible for most.

The average cost of lobster in 2021 was $10/pound, but in 2022, it is $20 – $150+/ pound, depending on the part and size. Lobsters also have a lot of uses, and as a result, they are high in demand. The increased demand coupled with the low supply contributes to the increasing price. In summary, Lobsters are expensive because:

  • Cost of Transportation
  • High demand
  • Low supply
  • Lobster being a meal for the elites

Is seafood more expensive than meat?

Seafood is usually more expensive than most types of meat because, unlike meat such as cow, turkey, goat, etc. is relatively easier to rear and transport.

How to Save Money on Seafood?

  • Choose white, flaky fishes in the store; they are usually cheaper than other options.
  • Buying frozen foods instead of fresh helps cut down cost
  • Bulk buying also helps cut down costs.
  • Can watch out for sales from stores to get them when they are cheaper
  • Filling your stomach at all-you-can-eat seafood restaurants can save your money too.

Bottom Line

There is a noticeable increase in the number of factory farms, and wild-caught seafood has been reducing. This helps close the gap between the supply and demand of seafood, increasing prices. Hopefully, this trend continues and effectively reduces the costs of seafood.

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