How Much Crawfish Does Lafayette, Louisiana Eat Every Year?
Springtime means a lot of things for south Louisiana, but it almost always includes a crawfish boil (or five) on our social calendar and plenty of hours peeling and eating the official state crustacean.
Eating crawfish has a long history in south Louisiana, and boiling them has been a regular tradition as people love to gather around a table and peel and eat (and sometimes dip) the delicious and spicy tail meat.
Along with the occasional potato, corn, sausage, or any other food you throw into your pot, that is.
But just how much crawfish do we eat every year, and how much should you plan on eating? The numbers can be confusing - and probably aren't enough if you're a crawfish junkie.
How Much Crawfish is Harvested Every Year?
The crawfish industry is pretty big in Louisiana. Every year, depending on the winter we have (among other factors), we harvest somewhere between 120 to 150 million pounds of crawfish in the state. It's an industry that rakes in millions of dollars every year.
Coming from mostly man-made ponds, crawfish gives some farmers with rice fields another source of income.
According to the Louisiana Crawfish Promotion and Research Board , the state produces more than 90 percent of the crop, and the industry makes more than 300 million dollars annually.
More than 7,000 people depend directly or indirectly on the crawfish industry.
Not all of it goes to local boils and restaurants. Some of that harvest is turned into commercial products you can find in grocery stores. So, if you don't have time to pull out the propane and the crawfish pot, you can find the tails at your local grocery store.
How Much Should You Cook?
Most of the Internet seems to agree that, when you're cooking a lot of crawfish for a big crowd, you should anticipate about three pounds per person. Sure, even down here, we typically eat a lot more, but you should consider that some people won't be eating, or won't eat that full three pounds.
Still, ask any average Cajun and they'll tell you their minimum is five pounds.
"Eight pounds is the sweet spot," one even told me.
Others will say they don't really keep track of how many pounds. They just eat until they're tired of peeling (very few seem to say they eat until they are full). "I can eat as many as you dump in front of me and I never eat anything else," an online commenter wrote.
Of course, how big they are and how they're cooked can play a big role in that.
If they're cooked with a lot of sides, and people are eating those along with their crawfish, they'll naturally eat less of the crawfish. Some have also claimed that crawfish that are "juicy" (have retained a lot of the water from the boiling) make them fuller.
And the high levels of sodium in the seasoning are also a factor. According to the Houston Methodist Hospital System's blog, there is enough sodium in a crawfish boil to keep you feeling bloated for days.
And even if you manage to stay within a healthy serving size of both crawfish and boiled veggies, it's pretty much impossible to avoid the unhealthiest aspect of a crawfish boil: The excess (and we mean excess) salt.
The recommended daily intake of sodium is 2,400 mg or less. For people with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, it's even lower — about 1,500 mg or less. The seasoning bags and seasoning liquid used in a crawfish boil are extremely high in sodium. So much so that a person with high blood pressure almost hits his or her daily sodium intake in just a single serving of boiled crawfish and vegetables.
How Much Should You Eat?
Houston Methodist recommends a serving size of roughly three ounces of tail meat.
How many pounds of cooked crawfish is that? About a single pound. That's definitely a lot less than what most of us would eat.
That means, in fact, that five pounds of crawfish will come out to just a bit under one pound of tail meat (give or take). Other than the sodium, there's every reason to eat your fill - it's low fat, high protein, and zero carbs. Skip the potatoes and corn, and you're looking at a very keto meal.
What it all comes down to, though, is that you should eat your fill... within reason. Clearly, sodium is a problem. But the flavor and the social aspect of gathering with friends for a big crawfish boil are two great reasons to live it up. It's not like you are going to be eating it every day - the prices just won't allow that.
Where Can You Get It?
There are dozens of locations in Lafayette establishments that sell crawfish, live or boiled, and the number seems to be growing almost annually. Several places are crawfish-focused. Other restaurants offer it as a special menu item on limited days during the crawfish season.
Most of these restaurants sell in 3/5/10 pound increments, and they can turn around dozens, if not hundreds, of tables a day on crawfish alone. Crawfish season is when a lot of these restaurants make the bulk of their annual profits.
How much are you eating this year?