How many pounds of crawfish does it take to get a pound of peeled tail meat? How much crawfish do we Cajuns eat? Here’s the straight dope on those dopey little creatures that make us go crazy for crawfish.
From Profitability of Crawfish Peeling Plants in Louisiana by James F. Hudson and Wildon J. Fontenot, 1970
“Fourteen percent was the average percentage of meat that can be obtained from live crawfish, which indicates that 86 percent of the raw product is waste.
Therefore, for a plant owner to obtain one pound of meat, he has to handle approximately seven pound of whole crawfish. Consequently, the cost of one pound of meat is approximately seven times the price of live crawfish, plus the cost of peeling and delivering.”
Sam Irwin, author of Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean said, “As the season progresses the shells of the crawfish get harder and weigh more, so the percentage of meat to shell goes down and that’s generally when peeling operations shut down. This, however, was in the days before the Chinese meat invasion when there were a lot of peeling plants (around 100 in 1990; now there are only about 20 plants that peel crawfish). It’s amazing that folks want to eat so much boiled crawfish. To me, that’s not the best way to eat crawfish. Give me a good, dark gravy crawfish stew any day or a bisque, or a cocktail, or fried crawfish…that’s the ticket.”
On Crawfish consumption in the United States and Louisiana, from LSU AgCenter Crawfish Profile written by Greg Lutz in 2011.
“U.S. per person consumption of crawfish in 2002 was approximately. 0.25 pounds. In Louisiana, per person consumption of locally-produced crawfish is 10.4 pounds. 70 percent of Louisiana crawfish is consumed locally.
Consumers outside of traditional crawfish-consuming regions still tend to view crawfish as a novelty. Demand in these areas largely depend on promotion and consumer education regarding culinary attributes and preparation of crawfish.”
How did all this come to pass? The answer is found in Louisiana Crawfish: A Succulent History of the Cajun Crustacean by Sam Irwin.