There’s exciting news for the millions of gourmet food lovers who patronize the Golden Arches on a regular basis. Although for now, the excitement is confined to the San Francisco Bay area.
The big news? Filet-O-Fish is about to get a seafood buddy on the menu.
According to TheDailyMeal.com website, four McDonald’s locations in San Jose and Santa Clara, Calif., have been test-marketing the chain’s latest culinary experiment: a crabmeat sandwich.
You read that right. Ronald and friends are now selling a crabmeat sandwich, made with snow crab meat, butter, celery, seasoned mayo, lettuce, and slices of tomato.
Inside sources (allegedly) told TheDailyMeal.com that if the sandwich sells well, sales of the seafood special will expand further.
But if you live in Iowa or Nebraska or Tennessee, don’t hold your breath waiting for the introduction of the Snow Crab Special, and don’t bother searching for the sandwich on the menuboard as you’re ordering lunch at your favorite drive-thru location.
Not gonna happen.
For one. Crab meat’s just not that popular. Even after it’s buried in seasoned mayo and spiked with butter, the taste is distinctive — and powerful. I don’t say that just because I’m not a huge fan of crab meat. It’s the Green Party candidate of animal proteins: A few loyal aficionados love it, but the majority of people take a pass on the stuff.
Statistics bear that out. Of the 14 or 15 pounds of seafood per capita that Americans consume every year, crabmeat represents less than 4% of the total.
Beyond its “distinctive” taste there are a couple other reasons why crabmeat anything is a bad idea for a national foodservice chain to consider rolling out.
For one, despite its prevalence on the menus of thousands of white-tablecloth restaurants, the American seafood supply has little to do with the United States. More than 90% of the seafood consumed in this country is imported.
Virtually all of the pollock (the whitefish that arrives in containers of frozen blocks that get turned into Filet O Fish), salmon, tuna and shrimp we consume are caught in foreign waters and are also processed overseas in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Chile.
Of course, if you want to be patriotic, there is one “seafood” product that is produced primarily in the United States that you can obtain if you shop around a bit: catfish. Pond-raised catfish is the one fish product that can be accurately labeled “Made in the USA.”
And definitely don’t hold your breath waiting for that to show up on McDonald’s menuboard.
But there is another, more meaningful reason why it’s a bad idea for a national restaurant chain to be rolling out a seafood sandwich: We’re running out of seafood.
Without going into the sobering statistics, consider this quote from the editors at National Geographic, a group considered a respected, reliable source.
“The unthinkable has come to pass: The wealth of oceans, once deemed inexhaustible, has proven finite, and fish, once dubbed ‘the poor man's protein,’ have become a resource coveted — and fought over — by nations.”
At the same time that domestic producers of meat and poultry are experiencing an expansion of supplies such that exports are now essential to the industry’s profitability, America’s seafood sources are almost exclusively comprised of imports, all taken from the world’s diminishing and over-harvested fisheries.
The only solution to that situation is for McDonald’s — and for all of us — to pass on the crab. Pass on shrimp, crab and tuna, and stick to the beef, pork and chicken products that are abundant, wholesome and most importantly, tasty. That doesn’t seem like such a difficult choice to make.
The opinions in this commentary are those of Dan Murphy, a veteran journalist and commentator.