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Oct 11, 2011 08:06 AM

Are baby octopuses really babies?

I'm serious. If someone can tell me whether the tiny octopuses you can get in Japanese and other restaurants and occasionally in seafood markets for home cooking are a small species of octopus or truly infant cephalopods, I would appreciate it. A friend and eating partner is now refusing to eat them because it seems cruel, and I've found no information online. So I'm appealing to my fellow savvy chowhounds to enlighten me. Many thanks.

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  1. I do believe they are young octopus not just a small species of octopus.

    though I'm not sure why eating an "old" octopus is any less cruel than eating a "young" octopus . . . . . being middle aged myself i selfishly think it is cruel to eat animals that are middle aged!!

    Did a quick search on Monterey Bay Aquarium's site:

    "Another menu offering might be “baby octopus” which could either be a juvenile common octopus or an adult octopus of a smaller species. What is clear is that it can be very difficult to determine what octopus one is eating. Tako is available year-round and served in a variety of forms including: live, fresh, dried, frozen, cured, salted, and brined. "

    But it goes on to suggest that the common octopus is, well, "common" since it reproduces quickly and in relatively large numbers. So seems like baby octopus are likely babies but "could" be adults of another species.

    Edit: from Mateo's posting below it should be clarified that I'm using "baby" loosely. Most octopi life cycles are first eggs, which then hatch and become paralarvae (a few millimeters in length), which float through the oceans for a while, which then settle and become very small octopus, which grow and become "baby" octopus and then if not eaten adult octopus. So the stage we think of as "baby" is really a little ways into the life cycle of most octopi.

    1. Does he have a cutoff point? For example, is eating teen octopii okay but not pre-teens? What if they're all sullen and self-absorbed?

      3 Replies
      1. re: ferret

        I was going to advocate for eating teen animals myself!

        1. Does your 'eating partner' eat suckling pig, veal, lamb, poussin?

          5 Replies
            1. re: Maximilien

              oh, forgot about chicken fetus. the BEST. i try to eat two every day.

              1. re: linguafood

                Forgetting, of course, that eating eggs aren't fertilized!

                1. re: mateo21

                  That's ok. I don't like my eggs fertilized in the morning :-D

                  1. re: mateo21

                    "Forgetting, of course, that eating eggs aren't fertilized!" Not usually, but there was a local chain in Nashville that carried a brand of fertilized eggs. They were reputed to be better for you, lower bad cholesterol, yada yada. And let's not even discuss balut eggs!

            2. Well... technically they're larvae (or paralarvae...) being cephalopods and all, maybe that will help them out?

              Why on earth is the NOT cruel to eat the adult version but cruel and unthinkable to eat the immature version?

              6 Replies
              1. re: mateo21

                Maybe because a single serving of the little tykes requires a greater loss of lives?

                1. re: Veggo

                  Nah, if that is true, then it won't have mattered if these baby octopuses are real babies or small size species.

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                    Not to mention the loss of life (fish, shrimp, clams, etc.) required for a baby octopus to grow into an adult octopus.

                    In this case, it does look like the "don't eat babies" thing is based on sentimentalism or squeamishness and not logical or ecological arguments. But at the same time, I am all for people having a closer look and a long hard think about what's in their plate and how it got there and what the implications/consequences of their choices are, and whether they still feel completely comfortable with their eating habits.

                2. re: mateo21

                  I think by the time we would even see and recognize them they are no longer paralarvae, they would be past the developmental stage. So maybe they are more akin to "teen" octopus if you consider that stage as well.

                  1. re: thimes

                    That sounds about right. On one dive, I saw an octopus about a foot across, and it appeared to be carrying a tube of Clearasil.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      "Maybe because a single serving of the little tykes requires a greater loss of lives?"

                      Sea creatures, especially the little tykes, are gobbled up way before maturity by a host of larger predators. I doubt that we (the two legged ego beasts) eat the majority of the little ones...

                3. The original comment has been removed