Sizing Changes Coming for Maryland Blue Crabs

For years, native Marylanders and tourists, alike, had but two choices when ordering crabs: #1s or #2s…also knows as large or medium. “Small” as a size disappeared in regard to crabs in the 1980s, at the same time as other offerings such as fast food french fries, fountain drinks, and pizzas. However, with a surge of tourists traveling to the Chesapeake Bay and Ocean City over the past twenty years, savvy restaurateurs soon added the “Jumbo” size in order to charge more per dozen. But that practice will change beginning August 1, 2015.

Earlier this week, the Maryland Association of Crab Restaurants (MACR) announced that they had developed a new size-grading system to be used by their member restaurants that would be rolled out throughout August. This new system eschews the traditional three-size system in favor of thirteen new grades.

“Earlier this year, we asked our member restaurants what they thought that their customers wanted, and we quickly received all kinds of feedback,” said Carl Clagett, Communications Director for MACR. “First and foremost, restaurant owners said that diners actually preferred Vietnamese crabmeat, as opposed to the domestic product. That was easy enough to address, as many of Maryland’s restaurants get their crabmeat from overseas anyway. But they also felt that their customers wanted a more dynamic system of crab sizes and an interesting pricing system to go along with that. Hence, our new grading system.”

Old Crab Grades

Old Crab Grades

The new system, according to Clagett, takes into account the complexity of flavor that the old system did not.

“Does the meat from a 5⅜” crab taste different than that from a 5⅞ crab?” he asked, “Hell yes! They are worlds apart. Some people would say that thirteen sizes are too many, but I say that they might not be enough!”

New Crab Grades

New Crab Grades

But some critics suspect that the new sizes are a ploy on the part of restaurants to charge higher prices for the same-sized crabs that Maryland has always produced. Restaurant owners bristle at that accusation.

“I am offended that anyone could be that cynical,” said Bill Neiber, owner of Crabnado in Ocean City, Maryland. “Why would I charge the same for Colossal now as I did for Large using the old system? That is insane! Yes, technically, they are the same size ruler-wise, but one is Colossal and the other is Large! What part of that are you not getting? Plus, tourists don’t know the difference, anyway. In fact, on average, our wait staff has to stop at least five tourists every day from eating crabs shell and all. ”

The most noticeable difference will be the higher per-dozen crab prices, with dramatic increases when compared to the previous system. But, Clagett is not concerned about the potential for customer pushback.

“I think that when consumers understand that this new grading system gives them many, many more options when it comes to ordering crabs, they will see that they are getting a better value with the higher prices,” he said.


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Category: State of Maryland

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Oh Baby, I am a femme fatale. I am Wanda> married to Otto--oh wait, that's my doppelgänger....I get confused sometimes. Actually, I am the one in charge here at The Crabwrapper because I am currently sleeping with Mark. In that capacity, I come in late (if at all), go home early, take extended lunch breaks and no one dares to give me any shit about it.

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  1. Mark says:

    What a ripoff!! What a greedy system these people have advanced!

    A jumbo crab is at least 7″ from point to point, and not a whit smaller! If it measures 8″ or more then it can be called an “extra jumbo” or “colossal” in a world where fairness prevails over unprecedented greed.

    This laughable new crab size chart is a complete joke, and disgusting. Not only is a 6-1/2″ crab NOT “Oh My God” (it’s an extra large at best) but at $178/doz it’s the ripoff of the decade! For a doz 6-1/2″ No. 1 males I’d pay $75 tops and hope they were reasonably heavy with none “waterlogged” and inedible. And the only reason I’d pay that is because I’m out in the suburbs. My friends in closer to the city go to refrigerated truck vendors roadside and pay half that.

    Don’t suck up to the greedy restaurant people who are dying to line their pockets with unearned wealth just because they think they can.

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