Alaskan King Crab is one of my very favorite seafoods and the January harvest just started showing up in stores in the last few weeks. I bought five big legs yesterday at Costco. I never looked at the price until the cashier rang it up. Yikes....$53 for five crab legs!
Last year, the highest price I paid for king crab was $19.99 per pound. When Costco had it on sale, I paid $14.99 per pound. Yesterday at Costco, I paid a jaw-dropping $24.99 per pound. So when I got home I climbed online to see what gives.
The 2012 harvest quota was slashed dramatically compared to 2011...it was cut by almost half! This year's harvest was limited to 7.8 million pounds. Last year the IFQ allowed a harvest of a little over 13 million pounds. So not only do we have a much smaller allowable harvest, we also have substantially higher fuel costs associated with getting the crab to market.
Last year the wholesale price of crab (what the processor pays the fishing boat) was $7.50 per pound. This year the wholesale price is $9.00 per pound. That is why Costco is getting $24.99 per pound at retail. My guess is that at stores like Byerly's, Lunds and Whole Foods, you will be looking at prices of $30+ per pound.
It's understandable if you forego Alaskan King Crab this year. The prices are ridiculous. If you do buy, buy the biggest legs you can and make sure the leg has a huge knuckle on it (the knuckles contain a lot of meat). Big legs contain more meat and therefore represent a better value. The shell gets thrown away, but you still have to pay for it. Buying big legs means more of your money goes for crab meat than crab shell.