Ask people what they like to eat at a “fancy” dinner out, and two proteins often come to mind – steak and lobster. It’s no surprise then that the fine dining restaurants at Disney World serve plenty of both.
Recently, though, we’ve noticed a trend – lobster dishes are quietly being removed from Disney menus (five dishes have disappeared in the past four months), and a booth that offered lobster dishes at the EPCOT Food & Wine Festival in previous years does not appear to be returning in 2022.
When we reached out to Disney for comment, the official response was that Disney menus change all the time. And that’s certainly true – so true that here at DFB we take a comprehensive look each week at menu changes.
But the lobster market is currently experiencing turbulence on two fronts – pricing spikes due to unprecedented demand, and questions about whether New England lobster can still be sustainably sourced – both of which could influence the availability of lobster on Disney menus going forward.
The most recent change to a menu that included removing a lobster dish was a change to the Prix Fixe menu at California Grill in the Contemporary Resort. That menu used to feature a Lobster and Parsnip Bisque selection that was removed from the menu in June.
At Coral Reef in EPCOT and at STK Orlando in Disney Springs, Lobster Bisque was taken off the menu in May. In April, the Superstar Catering Food Truck in Disney Springs stopped serving Lobster Mac and Cheese.
Lobster Landing was a new booth introduced for the 2021 EPCOT International Food & Wine Festival that served New England Lobster Tail, Lobster Chowder, and a Baked Lobster Dip with Old Bay Chips.
Disney has announced more than 30 food booths for the 2022 Food and Wine Fest, and Lobster Landing is not on the list. It’s not uncommon for booths to switch out year over year — sometimes items just don’t sell — but this particular omission is interesting to note.
As COVID vaccinations became widely available and COVID rates dropped in 2021, demand for lobster soared to unprecedented levels, according to Marianne LaCroix, executive director of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative.
“People were out of quarantine and looking to celebrate, and we’ve never seen demand so high,” LaCroix said. Lobster prices increased by as much as 60 percent at the Maine lobster docks in 2021, CBS News reported.
Red’s Eats, a popular seafood shack in Wiscasset, Maine, was selling lobster rolls in June 2021 for as much as $34 each, an increase of more than $10 over 2019 pricing, according to The New York Times.
While Maine fisheries trap lobster year-round, high season is July through November, when lobsters make their way closer to shore for the breeding and shedding seasons. Maine fisheries typically catch about 20 million lobster per month at the height of the season in August vs. about 1 million lobster per month in the winter, LaCroix said.
Prices continued to stay high during the winter months, because of demand around Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day, and are only beginning to come back down as the busy season cranks up in 2022. The wholesale price of a live hard-shell lobster fell to $9.35 per pound on May 1 from $12.35 per pound on April 1, according to market analysis firm Urner Barry, which described the drop as lobster pricing going “back to normal.”
Disney’s menus are certainly not immune to the whims of the supply chain. In addition to the lobster dish menu removals, we have seen the removal of peanut butter sauce from the Plaza Ice Cream Parlor menu after a nationwide recall caused shortages, and the removal of the Monte Cristo sandwich from the menu at the Plaza Restaurant because of a turkey shortage.
Lobster Sustainability in Question
But perhaps the biggest threat to Disney’s lobster supply chain is a draft assessment by sustainable seafood research organization Seafood Watch that would change its recommendation on lobster fished in the Gulf of Maine from its current “Recommended” to “Avoid.”
Seafood Watch says that while North American Lobster is not being overfished – typically a reason seafood may not be labeled sustainable – the equipment used in lobster fishing threatens the already endangered North American Right Whale. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association says entanglement in fishing gear and vessel strikes are the leading cause of injury for the right whale, and there are fewer than 360 of the species left on Earth.
A final ruling on the assessment is expected this month, but may be delayed because Seafood Watch extended the public comment period by 30 days earlier this spring. If Maine Lobster fisheries get an “Avoid” rating from Seafood Watch, the companies the organization partners with – including Disney, Whole Foods, and Red Lobster — would have to look elsewhere for their lobster or reduce their commitments to sourcing sustainable seafood.
Kevin Connor, communications director for Seafood Watch, noted when DFB reached out for an interview that the organization cannot comment on the draft assessment at this time.
So where else might the lobster we expect on Disney World menus come from? Seafood Watch says 65% of U.S. lobster imports come from Canada – and Canadian lobster fisheries are under the same microscope as U.S. lobster fisheries with Seafood Watch right now. So, sustainable lobster could be in very short supply, very quickly.
LaCroix, of the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative, said that the Maine Lobster Fishery also maintains sustainability certification from the Marine Stewardship Council, which she describes as an in-depth review that is peer-reviewed. She said that lobster fishermen have been working with NOAA for more than 20 years to make their methods and gear safer for the right whale. “Maine fishermen are really proud of their efforts in sustainability. It’s discouraging for them when their efforts aren’t recognized,” LaCroix said.
However, Seafood Watch cites a 2021 NOAA report that found that injuries to right whales continue to exceed the levels necessary for the population to recover.
Will lobster disappear from restaurant menus at Disney World and elsewhere if Seafood Watch moves forward with its draft assessment? If Disney chooses to maintain its current sustainability procedures – which have been in place for many years – it’s likely that we’ll see more lobster come off menus, as sustainable lobster becomes extremely difficult to source.
We’ve seen Disney remove many menu items when they experience a price spike or a kink in the supply chain, so the prospect of this happening with lobster is easy to imagine. Lobster lovers! Get your seafood fix now.
Are you planning a trip to Disney World soon? Brush up on your Disney tech by reading our step-by-step guide to using Disney Genie+. And check out our video below for the top Disney World restaurants of 2022!
What’s your favorite lobster dish at Disney World? Tell us in the comments!
The post Lobster Is Disappearing From Disney World Menus. Here’s Why. first appeared on the disney food blog.