Lobster sector launches process to identify quality grading standards for Canadian lobster

The Lobster Council of Canada leads work to introduce quality grading standards

A little known fact for many seafood lovers is that much of the Canadian lobster sold today undergoes tests to identify the quality of each lobster. Blood protein tests remove a small portion of lobster ‘blood’ and shell strength tests determine whether a lobster is full of meat or has recently undergone a moult. A visit to most seafood retailers will show the different categories of lobster with a higher price going to those deemed superior. This grading process is similar to many foods out there; beef grades identify a meat’s quality and flavour while egg grading is based on thick whites and perfect yolks.

One of the Lobster Council of Canada’s objectives is to act as a central point of discussion for industry stakeholders and provincial partners. In 2012, a review of the 2010 Long-term Value Strategy concluded with an industry-wide agreement to focus on two important marketability projects, quality grading and branding. On September 25, Canadian lobster industry representatives including harvesters, processors, live shippers, scientists, and both levels of government met at Canada’s Smartest Kitchen on Prince Edward Island to begin the process of identifying three to five objective quality standards to be used consistently to categorize lobsters. This is the first of three sessions that will bring the group together to discuss how best to identify a lobster’s grade. Task Group members will visit locations in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to identify the most accurate and practical lobster quality levels available. Following these meetings, the task group will recommend the industry-wide adoption of the three to five chosen quality grading standards.

Outcomes from the project are twofold.  These standards will be used at the first point of purchase to develop a multi-tiered shore pricing system that will provide an incentive to harvesters to land lobster in top condition. This system will also help ensure that lobster of various qualities and conditions are moved through the appropriate channel in the lobster value chain to ensure that our customers receive the absolute best dining experience weather they choose processed or live lobster from Canada.

“This project has an internal industry focus but there is also a compelling external outcome as well,” says Geoff Irvine, Executive Director of the Lobster Council of Canada. “We know from many years of study and research that the Canadian lobster sector wants a more transparent and objective system of identifying lobster quality and condition at first point of purchase (between the harvester and the buyer). We want to engage the entire industry in this process and come out with a practical system that can be implemented on board fishing vessels and in plants.  This new quality grading system will help us continue to build upon our existing premium lobster reputation as we focus on our new Canadian lobster brand. ”

Task Group Members include:

  1. Carl Allen, Maritime Fishermen’s Union (NB)
  2. Ian Burford, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador (NL)
  3. John Garland, Clearwater Seafoods (NS)
  4. Robert Harris,  LFA 34 Management Board (NS)
  5. Stewart Lamont, Tangier Lobster (NS)
  6. Carl MacDonald, Department of Fisheries and Oceans (NS)
  7. Bernard MacLennan, Fisherman’s Market International  (NS)
  8. Barry MacPhee, Government of Nova Scotia (NS)
  9. Marc Surette, Fish Packers Association of Nova Scotia (NS)
  10. Jean Lavallee, Aquatic Science & Health Services (PE)
  11. Robert MacMillan, Government of Prince Edward Island (PE)
  12. Ian MacPherson, Prince Edward Island Fishermen’s Association (PE)
  13. Jeff Malloy, Acadian Fishermen’s Co-op (PE)
  14. Jean-François LaPlante, MERINOV – Québec Fisheries and Aquaculture Innovation Centre (QC)

“Industry members at every stage of the value chain, including harvesting, processing, and live shipping, are committed to quality grading of Canadian lobster,” said Robert Harris, a harvester from Southwest Nova Scotia and task group member. “I believe the chosen quality grading standards will be supported by the industry as long as there is an incentive to implement.” Members of the Lobster Council of Canada and the five provincial governments work funded and supported the quality grading task group’s efforts.

Established in 2009, the Lobster Council of Canada brings together Canadian lobster industry stakeholders, including harvesters, live shippers, processors, First Nations peoples, and provincial and federal governments, to work on projects of mutual benefit. Areas of focus currently include lobster quality and traceability, a national lobster branding and promotion strategy, market access challenges and opportunities and industry communication. With government support and members from across Atlantic Canada and Quebec, the Lobster Council of Canada is recognized as the voice of the Canadian lobster industry.

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