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In a first-season episode of the US TV show Kitchen Nightmares, the well-known chef Gordon Ramsay states that there's a "big difference [in] taste and flavor" between Maine lobsters and Canadian lobsters. He gets into an argument about it with a restaurant owner who claims that they're really no different. (If you're in the US, there's free video of the argument in question here, from hulu; start at about 16:33.)

Admittedly, I don't know whether Maine lobstering waters and Canadian lobstering waters border each other, though Maine waters and Canadian waters certainly do. And Gordon Ramsay owns more Michelin stars than I own plates, so he's clearly the expert. But I also find it hard to dismiss the owner's points — if they're true — that both lobster types are the same species (Homarus americanus), and come from the same North Atlantic waters.

So, what is the cause of the difference in taste/flavor/quality between Maine lobsters and Canadian lobsters?

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10 Answers 10

I'm no expert in lobster but all sorts of things can effect the quality of produce even if its the same variety.

Things like diet, water temperature and water quality could easily cause differences between 2 otherwise identical things.

There could also be differences in how they are fished/managed by the 2 nations.

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The Canadian lobster fishing industry is more regulated than the American industry, and the waters are colder. These two factors would probably lead to larger lobster, but I'm not sure the quality would change much... Road trip? –  Adam Shiemke Sep 8 '10 at 10:37
    
Larger lobsters are actually less desirable because by the time you've cooked the meat in the centre of a particularly big one, the outside meat is horribly overcooked. Good article about working with big specimens here: cookingissues.com/2010/07/07/… –  Stefano May 17 '13 at 11:37

First of all, Ramsay was primarily concerned that they were advertising Maine Lobsters and selling Nova Scotia Lobsters. He actually didn't comment on the flavour.

I've searched about 20 web pages (nothing authoritative) and the consensus is that the colder the water, the better the lobster.

But, the waters off of Maine are fed by the Labrador current, which is the same water that flows past New Brunswick, PEI and Nova Scotia.

If there is a temperature difference, it is likely not very significant, and any effect it would have on flavour is minimal at best.

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true, his main concern was about false advertising. But he also says the following: "You're telling me now that Canadian lobster, half the price of a Maine lobster, is the same taste and flavor? There's a big difference." –  Pops Sep 9 '10 at 23:37
    
And of course Ramsay isn't known for his tact... –  jwenting Jun 6 '13 at 6:27

I have lobstered from Montauk New york all the way to just south of Greenland. I come from a family that has been deeply involved in the losbter fishing trade since the late 18th century. My grandfather, uncle and brother have all, in their repective times, been consultants to the national lobster fisheries advisory board of both Canada(my grandfather) and The United States(my uncle and brother). I have worked as a chef in restaurants in Maine, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and Cape Cod since I was in my late twenties.

It is mine, and my family's, considered opinion that the esteemed, if somewhat self-aggrandizing, Chef Gordon Ramsay is DEAD WRONG in is opinion of the differences between Homarus Americanus caught in Canadian waters as opposed to those harvested in American waters. There is virtually no discernable difference whatsoever.

Ramsay's opinionated, albeit ill informed, attack on the New York restaurant owner doesn't surprise me at all. On the original British version of Kitchen Nightmares I once saw him introduce, as a new menu item in the episodes featured eatery, what he dubbed , and I quote " a classic ceasar salad". The salad was served with two crisp stripsw of fried BACON! My 70 year old Rome born father in law gasped and said, "CLASSIC!!... maybe in Yorkshire!... he scoffed.

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Your keyboard seems to be missing the enter key? –  TFD Feb 8 '12 at 22:50
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Why would your Rome born father have any expertise on Mexican salads? –  Chris Cudmore Feb 18 '12 at 15:52
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@ChrisCudmore Italians have strong opinions on everything. –  ashkan Mar 1 '13 at 22:02

I believe it is the same thing that sparkling wine from Champagne can be called champagne, but those made outside of it cannot be named that way. I watched that clip and it Gordon picked on false advertising, regardless if there are actual difference in taste.

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Possibly two reasons: environmental concerns and a lack of standards.

For the environment, Ramsay has often advocated for restaurants to serve fresh, local seafood wherever available. He supports local industry and sustainable harvest. He has a recent scathing documentary about shark fin soup, openly protesting inflated prices for the rare, costly, and underwhelming dish that puts environmental strain on the fishing industry. I am unsure, but both lobsters are harvested from different countries with different fishing regulations. He may have critiques about Canadian or American fishing industry.

High quality seafood restaurants often advertise from where their seafood is obtained. I'm not in a region known for lobster, but a region known for oyster. We have many regions in the pacific northwest whence oysters are harvested. Oysters in regions mere miles apart can have wildly different flavors. In a blind taste test, it's quite easy to match oysters by region based on their characteristics. I think small regional differences can lead to large differences in flavor between shellfish, based on water characteristics. No particular region is bad or low quality here, but for a restaurant to not know whence their seafood comes shows a lack of class and standards.

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This seems like a really obvious answer to me. Im glad someone posted this. Im no expert on food, or seafood. However I do like food! :) In NY a Lobster from Maine would be perceived potentially more fresh - and to be helping regional/local industry (think, "Made in the USA"). I also believe Maine lobsters are more expensive. This owner was claiming Maine because of its popularity, but using canadian, less fresh/less local food because its cheaper. The restaurant was probably pocketing the difference in price that should have gone to that local industry, all while sacrificing freshness. –  eddiemoya Jun 19 '13 at 22:38
    
I imagine a textile company advertising that something was "Made in the USA", while actually having it made for a fraction of the price in China. Its not necessarily an issue of quality, the problem is someone leeching of peoples desire to help support their local economy. –  eddiemoya Jun 19 '13 at 22:42

I believe the restaurant owner called it Maine lobster is to differentiate it from other species we call lobster such as rock lobster. Maine lobster describes all (western) North Atlantic lobsters whether caught in Canada or the US. To further this answer refer to the definition of American Lobster on Wikipedia. It is also know as Maine Lobster and covers (comes from) the Canadian and U.S. NorthEast Coast from Newfoundland to New Jersey.

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Within the same species/genus, the strain of lobster can account for a significant taste difference. Fishery quality and practices also matter, of course.

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As a lobster fisherman in Nova Scotia, I can say chef Ramsay is full of himself. He should never comment on anything that he has no idea of what he is talking about. If you are in a restaurant in Florida and you are served a Maine lobster, you have an 80% chance of getting a lobster from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, or Prince Edward Island, though this is less common than the other two. There are no differences between them other than at times water temp, and time of year caught. This can lead to shells with very little meat, soft shells, or hard shells, that are very full of meat. A lobster here for instance caught in March, April, or May, is very full of meat and rich in taste compared to one caught in October or November. Not to say some caught in October or November are not but in general they are.

The idea behind the whole Maine lobster fuss is more of an American deal. Where as if you are a US citizen, you will be more likely to support your US fishermen. But, you must remember I may be in Nova Scotia, but when I leave my harbor I am in what they call The Gulf Of Maine. So could you not call my catch Maine Lobsters, and be correct? Now when you get further up in Bay Of Fundy, or get out on the Atlantic side of Nova Scotia in the Atlantic Ocean, this may not fly. But like one of the other answers above stated, if you see Maine lobster, you know right away what it is. This could possibly be the best reason for the Maine name.

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Also I must add, they do tag lobsters of scientific purposes here, to learn more about them. They have tagged lobsters here that have been caught in Mass I believe. There are a number of lobsters, that migrate yearly some say, up and down the Atlantic coast, seems they have no idea where the border is. LOL –  Mitch P Jun 17 '13 at 18:16

A Maine lobster is caught by someone who resides in Maine. A Nova Scotian lobster is one caught by someone who resides in Nova Scotia. It's the same Species, Atlantic lobster regardless of where it's caught.

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Canada fishermen have different size standards, they are allowed to keep bigger lobsters which are not as good to eat, kind of like an old cow. When Canada lobsters are processed you get the good with the bad bringing down the overall quality.

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