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May 10, 2013 11:37 AM

redfish sticker shock

Has anyone ordered a whole redfish in a New Orleans restaurant? I did last night and found out later that it was 50 bucks! Oh, it was spectacular, but $50? Seemed excessive, my bad for not asking the price in advance, I guess. Or maybe that's the going rate, who knows...

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  1. Would you have been shocked to pay an equivalent price for a similar weight of beef? Just wondering.

    8 Replies
    1. re: Hungry Celeste

      I know high-end beef is gonna be pricey, whether it's a menu item or a special. I don't expect a fish on the menu that is $28 to be $50 when it appears as a special item. I'm not saying it shouldn't have been, my question centers around redfish costs to the restaurant. Didn't know it was up there with/more than pompano and the like.

      1. re: Hungry Celeste

        in all earnest, in comparing the costs of fishing versus cattle hearding, if i had to guess id figure raising a mammal for a year or more is more expensive than fishing a protein?

        1. re: kibbles

          The cost differential isn't just about bringing the product to market, it's also about the product's shelf life. Frozen beef is perfectly acceptable to many (most?) consumers, and even a non-frozen primal cut will have a MUCH longer useable window than a whole fish. Hell, good beef is aged for weeks and weeks. (Try that with a whole redfish, which is unacceptable to most resto chefs in frozen form.)

          Also factor in gov't subsidies for grains, which is what the cattle standing around in feedlots are eating. Cattle eat and are slaughtered independent of weather, water conditions, etc. Economies of scale and efficiencies in giant meat processing operations drive down the cost of beef.

          Even non-CAFO beef, locally raised beef is usually cheaper than fresh seafood. I paid ~$4/lb for my last local, pastured calf, cut & wrapped: less than a lb of shrimp.

          It's the whole idea of wild vs domestic. One is unpredictable and a gift of mother nature; the other is the result of 9,000 years of cattle domestication.

          1. re: kibbles

            A new modern shrimp boat is $600K or more. And diesel fuel for an engine and several generators keeps the overhead up. As fishing is about the most dangerous job, insurance cost are also involved. Depending on the fishery you also have bait, lines or nets. Then you have to find the fish.

            Fishing has as many stumbling blocks and possible bad outcomes as farming.

            And as we know there are rules, limits and licensing.

            1. re: collardman

              while this is departing from the economics of menu pricing, i dont disagree that commercial fishing is expensive -- but so are cattle ranches and cattle; especially if theyre free-range, grass-fed, etc.

              1. re: kibbles

                Grass fed beef in LA isn't such a capital intensive prospect. Our climate allows cattle to be on pasture 12 months a year; most LA cattlemen just supplement with a little purchased "friendly feed" to keep 'em from getting too wild. Of course, there are vet bills, property taxes, and artificial insemination costs, but overall, raising cattle is a less risky proposition than commercial fishing. You just need to own/lease ample pasturage; again, not so expensive in rural areas of the state. $600K would buy several hundred acres of pasture, and the low end stocking rate in many well-watered areas of LA is a couple acres per cow/calf. Breeding is scheduled so that the cows drop their calves from Jan to April (earlier in south LA, later in north LA), the calves graze through the summer, and the young are sold off in the fall to reduce the winter load on pastures.

                Yes, it still requires lots of work, but it is a great deal more predictable than commercial fishing. (just my opinion)

                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  im not saying commercial fishing is predictable or inexpensive.

          2. re: Hungry Celeste

            Just paid US $85 for a 4 oz. Kobe Filet, and it was great. Passed on a US $ 125 for Wagyu filet, and it was only 6 oz. Just did not seem like a "deal."


            PS - the best #5 Kobe only figures in at #3 in my "all-time filet" list, and Wagyu (whatever) is at about # 8. The ultimate happened to be Big Island Beef from the Island of Hawai`i, and number 2 was just Colorado Beef.

          3. Redfish, aka red drum, are classed as game fish in LA. Thus, the commercial harvest of red drum is prohibited. S Carolina allows a limited commercial harvest of red drum as by catch. TX & LA produce some "farmed" red drum (usually in coastal ponds/marsh impoundments).

            So you paid dearly because the commercial supply is sorely limited. Notice I did not say that the fish population is sorely limited---it's just been reserved for sport fishermen. Watch for red snapper to become just as expensive as red drum; increasingly tight regs are applying to red snapper. LA & TX are fighting with the feds over control of limits in state waters re: red snapper:

            You can read all the LA Commercial fishing regs here:
            Pompano requires a special license/permit (no fee) but a $250 fee per strike net, unlike many other species.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Hungry Celeste

              You're hungry AND most knowledgeable, Celeste! I now will know to ask the price. If I wanna splurge, certainly worth it. Otherwise I'll "settle" for speckled trout and the like. Appreciate the info, I was not aware.

              1. re: sanglier

                I've caught hundreds of specks and reds, and I'll take speckled trout anytime. There is no finer fried fish than my scaled, skin on, 90/10 ish cornmeal/flour seasoned mix. Snapper and redfish second, but its all good, the fresher the better.

              2. re: Hungry Celeste

                Celeste, Texas saltwater fisherman here. I call those farm raised reds greenfish, as that is their color, won't touch them. Reds take on the color of the water they reside in, the beautiful bronze/red colors come from clear water. What's up with specks in LA? They're treated like redfish in Texas, no commercial harvest, the ones in markets are from Mexico. The conventional wisdom over here is Tx. and La. snapper stocks are good, we're being punished for east Gulf stocks. I've quit going offshore due to restrictions. An edit, we get some beautiful Mexican snapper here when the Texas season shuts down. Maybe they'll help hold down the prices.

                1. re: James Cristinian

                  Those pond raised reds do look odd, though I've heard it's related to their food rather than the water, dunno how true that is. Specks require a special permit, with restrictive licensing conditions, and an overall annual quota of 1 million pounds.

                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                    Forgot about the food, I'm sure they're not getting their normal diet of fish, crabs, shrimp, plastic lures, and gold weedless spoons. They're probably fed some sort of pellet concoction, with the disgusting water adding to the mix.

                  2. re: James Cristinian

                    Population and tourism in Mexico's coastal regions has grown so much in the last 20 years and the number of fishermen has been in such decline that red snapper and redfish are now hard to find in markets and restaurants there.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      We never have a problem finding beautiful, fresh snapper here in Houston, even when Gulf season is closed, but I'm not paying HEB 10 bucks a pound, the local Fiesta was 5.99 last year, must check out. I assume they come from Mexico, analogous with the lack of larger blue crabs here, unless you go to the coast. Most of the good ones go to Maryland. I think there is still plenty of snapper in the western Gulf, the boats around here have no problem getting limits, many of them sows.

                2. Peche had a whole redfish on the specials menu last night for $37.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: uptownlibrarian

                    That has been on the specials menu both times I've been to Peche and, like everything else I've tried there, it's been really good.

                  2. Another Gulf Coast fisherman here. I would gladly pay $50, or more, for a small "genuine" Red Snapper, would not be happy to pay that for a Redfish.

                    1. Once, there was a time, when several game fish, such as Redfish, or Speckled Trout, were not restricted. One could catch almost unlimited quantities of each, with no problems. That is not the way that it is now. Many things have changed, and prices in restaurants have changed too.

                      The US $50 seems high to me, BUT it could depend on the season, or other considerations. As mentioned, things have changed.

                      Once, it was normal for a fisherman to boat a dozen "Bull-reds," in the late Fall, or Winter, and the same for "Rat-reds," maybe two months on either side of that. That has changed, and the same can be said for "Specks," too.

                      While US $ 50 does sound high, I would pinch myself, and whisper, "things have changed."