American Lobster

Homarus americanus

Market Name(s): Lobster, Maine lobster, Canadian lobster

Contact Purchasing
American Lobster
  • Primary Source: New England, Atlantic Canada.
  • Season: In New England, year round, but most landings from July - October. In Canada, seasons vary by province. Major fisheries include New Brunswick and P.E.I. (late spring and early fall) and Nova Scotia (November - July).
  • Primary Fishing Method: Trap

Size Range:

Max Size: 40 lbs

Avg. Size: 1-3 lbs

Product forms:

FRESH: Whole cooked.

FROZEN: Whole cooked, cooked meat and claws; raw tails.

Storage & Handling

Most live lobster are packed in seaweed or seawater-soaked newspaper with gel packs and shipped in 25- or 50-lb. boxes. Upon delivery, they should be kept in 40-45-°F salt water to slow their metabolism and minimize stress. Frozen whole-cooked lobsters are sold in either brine-filled plastic sleeves (sometimes called "popsicle packs") or dry in vacuum packs.

Cooking Suggestions

The most common method to cook American lobsters is boiling or steaming and serving with drawn butter. Steam the lobster for 13 minutes per pound for the first pound and add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound thereafter. When boiling, bring the water to a rolling boil, add the lobster and boil 10 minutes per pound for the first pound. Add 3 minutes per pound for each additional pound thereafter. If you are cooking new, or soft shell lobsters, reduce the time by 3 minutes. Lobsters can also be blanched for 3 to 5 minutes, split and finished on a grill and served with a sauce for a different flavor profile.

Selling Points

  • Consumers love American lobster: The so-called “king of crustaceans” is haute cuisine you can eat with your hands.
  • Because the bulk of the lobster harvest takes place from May to October, but most of the “summer trade” only runs June to September, the best buys on live product are usually found in May and September.
  • Kept on display in a well-maintained live tank, few seafoods offer more eye appeal than live lobster.
  • Frozen whole-cooked lobster offers an affordable alternative to live product. Available year-round, they also eliminate the costs and problems involved in keeping live product.


  • Watch for broken legs or antennae, which are signs of poor handling and can lead to higher stress and greater deadloss.
  • New-shell (i.e., post-molt) lobsters have poorer meat fill and will suffer higher mortalities during shipping than hard-shell lobsters.
  • If a lobster is “mossy,” it’s probably been kept in a lobster pound. Although the meat is still fine, the appearance can turn buyers off.
  • Watch for lobsters missing one or both claws; they should be available at a discount.
  • Untrimmed bloodline on frozen loins.
  • Fillets with gray flesh color, skin specks, bones and parasites.
  • Blood spots are a sign of bruising and mishandling.
  • Spotty, uneven coating on breaded and battered products.
  • White cottony appearance indicates freezer burn.

The Pacific Advantage

  • All distribution facilities have live lobster tanks
  • The lobsters are stored in salt water to ensure quality
  • Source only hard shell lobster from large, reputable dealers
  • The fast turnover of live inventory allows for higher-quality product
  • Full supply of frozen Maine lobster products including tails and meat


Known to many consumers as Maine lobster, this popular shellfish (Homarus americanus) has been a major resource throughout New England and Atlantic Canada since Colonial times. Today, thanks to careful handling and sophisticated shipping techniques, American lobster is enjoyed from Boston to Beijing. American lobster are found from North Carolina to Labrador, with Maine and Nova Scotia typically being the biggest producers. Two related species are found throughout Europe and off the coast of Norway.

Together, the U.S. and Canada harvest approximately 70,000 to 75,000 tons of lobster a year. Historically, Canada has accounted for up to two-thirds of the total; recently, the split has been closer to 50/50.

 Like all shellfish, lobsters molt, shedding their shells in order to grow into a new larger shell. Such "new-shell" lobsters tend be more fragile and have a lower meat fill than similarly aged hard-shell lobsters.

Canada's lobster fishery is closed during the summer, when lobsters typically molt. The New England lobster fishery, however, does not have a closed season and a high percentage of the catch from July through September is new shell lobsters .

In Canada, where annual landings average around 40,000 tons, the harvest season varies by province. The biggest catches are in the spring (New Brunswick and P.E.I.) and fall (Nova Scotia).

In the U.S., most lobster are caught between July and October, with Maine typically accounting for around 75% of the national harvest.

It takes an American lobster four to seven years to grow to one pound; in the U.S., 85-90% of the harvest consists of lobsters that have just reached the legal size. In the U.S., the minimum "gauge size" (carapace length) for a legal live lobster is 3 1/4 inches, which means marketable animals usually run 1 pound and up. In Canada, lobsters as small as 1/2 to 1 pound, sometimes called "canners," are legal, but they can't be shipped to the U.S. live. American lobster are generally graded in 1/2-pound increments, with the following market names: "Chickens" or "chix" (1 pound), "quarters" (1-1 1/2 pounds), "selects" (1 1/2-2 pounds) and "jumbos" (2 pounds and up). A lobster missing one or both claws is known as a "cull."

A live lobster should curl its tail when touched. If it doesn't, it's probably dead and should be discarded. Likewise, lobsters missing legs or antennae or bearing moss (from being kept in pounds) may be sluggish or stressed, resulting in higher deadloss.

Consumers who refrain from eating lobster because of the "scream" the animals make when placed in boiling water shouldn't worry. The sound is simply air escaping from the lobster's body as it expands from the heat.