27 October 2010

Shell shock, revisited

Almost a year ago, I wrote about a device being marketed as the “Crustastun” that was touted as being a more human way to kill a lobster than the traditional boiling. Today, a new article updates the story and talks more about the evidence that the device kills rapidly.

Professor Douglas Neil of the University of Glasgow said that studies he has performed for the company that makes the machine demonstrate that electrocution is the quickest way of ending any signs of nervous activity in edible crustaceans – an indication of a clean death.

"It eliminates all activity that is truly from the nerves. The story becomes quite simple: we see silence in the nervous system, both the central nervous system and the peripheral nervous system," Professor Neil said. ...

A study this year by Bjorn Roth of the University of Bergen in Norway compared many different methods of killing crustaceans, such as superchilling, gradual heating, boiling, gassing and salt baths. He found that electrocution produced the quickest death.

I recognize the name of one of the researchers mentioned, but, as is too often the case, there is no indication of whether the studies mentioned have been published or not.

An editorial comment by a chef is completely skeptical.

The Crustastun sounds like another gadget that's going to get broken and relegated to the back of a kitchen cupboard. ... The old-fashioned ways are a sign that a chef is confident in their skills.

I have never experienced objections to having lobster on the menu.

The constant peppering of questions about boiling lobsters, though, suggests people aren’t entirely cavalier about the whole thing. I also think that there’s a certain amount of self-selection going on in this person’s comments, since he is a fairly highly rated chef. (A Michelin star is good, right?)

A companion piece is... well, I’m not sure what to make of it.

According to Professor Douglas Neil of the University of Glasgow, electrocution is the most humane way of dispatching crustaceans. All the other methods, apparently, result in a protracted death for the creature.

Professor Neil deserves our gratitude for establishing this. But would it be unreasonable to hope that he does not turn his attention next to the most humane way to peel a potato? Some of us are too set in our ways to cope with further ethical revolutions in the kitchen.

Hat tip to Graham Farmelo.

1 comment:

Matt said...

I don't eat lobster anymore because of how they are killed (as well as doubts about sustainability). Interesting how the chef thinks that a lack of complaints means there is no ethical issue. I guess that is why he is a chef and not an ethicist.