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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. Off topic but this thread reminded me of a meal I had in the south of France a couple of weeks ago, in an Italian restaurant in Antibes. Tagliolini with calamaretti, made with the absolute tiniest calamari I've ever seen. This is an ENTIRE squid in the photo!

                  7 Replies
                  1. re: BobB

                    I have never seen them that small. It must have been good though because it looks like there's nothing else left on the plate!

                    1. re: cajundave

                      I think Bob is tricking us with a giant fork.

                      1. re: Veggo

                        Totally agree. He's messing with our tiny heads...

                          1. re: Veggo

                            No way, dude - they're really that small! I assume they're a local specialty as this was a regular menu item, not a special of the day. And yes, it was very good.

                            The restaurant is called Sapori d'Italia, it's on the Côte d'Azur about 30 km or so southwest of the French/Italian border.

                            1. re: BobB

                              I just googled calamaretti and found that it has several meanings, including a type of pasta, but one of them is this very small squid. Apparently it's more typically served fried - I found several pics on Tripadvisor from restaurants in Italy.

                        1. re: BobB

                          At that size, I almost wonder if someone simply got thier hands on a mess of ready to hatch squid eggs, and popped them.

                          Actually there is one big advantage to eating your octopi small, they are more tender then. You know all those tricks they mention for cooking an octopus (hitting them against a rock 100 times, adding champagne corks etc.) well most of them were desigend for big octopuses which can be really chewy.
                          But as far as I am concerned I will eat any octopus, of any size, provided some creatively demented Australian chef does not try and serve me blue ringed octopus (I don't know if they can kill you if you eat them, but I am not keen to find out).

                        2. seems like conscious eating is becoming the food rule of the hour. Several people in the "What Are Your Irrefutable Food Rules" thread stated that they won't eat octopus because it's intelligent. I know some people that are dumber than an octopus. Are they fair game? What about pigs? They are pretty intelligent.

                          Pass the lemon

                          6 Replies
                          1. re: scubadoo97

                            I know that you are equally conflicted with how friendly (but dumb) grouper are, and how intelligent and curious octopi are, underwater, but both are so delicious above sea level. I especially enjoy passing a probing octopus onto a newbee diver, and watching!
                            Later, "Mesero, mas ceviche mixto, mientras pienso esto."

                            1. re: Veggo


                              I guess I won't feel bad when the dumb hogfish swims up to my spear. Well maybe for a second.

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                Yes! Boquinette, frito entero, con ajo. It doesn't get any better. Maybe a side of salsa veracruzano. My absolute favorite eating fish.
                                I pay attention after I spear them, you know the drill. It's not over, yet.

                                1. re: Veggo

                                  unless it's a head shot which with hogs is a pretty good bet

                            2. re: scubadoo97

                              That is an excellent question. I mean it. It really is a good moral question. What is considered cruel or inhumane? Does eating an intelligent being more cruel than eating a sophisticated one? To answer that question, one has to first define cruelty and humanity, either of which I will directly discuss. Some may say that intelligent has much to do with this, but I will play the counter argument game.

                              If this is true, then is it a universal value system and can we translate this to human? Can we say an intelligent human being simply is more human than a less intelligent man. So when faced with limited medical supply, we will save the intelligent ones first, not because they are more valuable to our society which I am sure many people will argue, but literlally the intelligent people are more human, and it would have been inhumane to save a less intelligent man over a intelligent one. Also what about human infants, babies, and children? Are their brain less developed and less intelligent?

                              Pass the lemon.

                              1. re: scubadoo97

                                I would argue that the really smart ones don't get caught in the first place. We're only eating the stupid ones so it's ok.

                              2. Let them grow.The men who caught them and serve them grilled. Manarola.Italy