How many crab cakes can you make after an hour out on the Choptank River with a trotline, hand-bagged clam bait, a heavy-wire net, an experienced captain and a handful of regional bloggers? Not as many as you might think. In fact, probably only one or two. If that.
I think this is the message that Steve Vilnit, the Director of Fisheries Marketing for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, hopes to send home with the local chefs and bloggers that he takes on experiential adventures in Maryland Seafood – one of which I had the pleasure of participating in this weekend (read all about it in EatMoreDrinkMore’s post here).
Catching and picking crabs in our region is a labor-intensive and time-consuming endeavor with costs that can’t be recaptured (let alone sustained) if the majority of “Maryland Style” crab cakes are made with less-expensive crab meat imported from the Gulf of Mexico, Venezuela or the Far East (ah’hem: not sustainable). Unfortunately, many restaurants are capitalizing on the illusion of “local”crab meat without supporting the Maryland seafood industry directly.
According to Vilnit, only a small percentage of restaurants in Maryland reliably make their crab cakes from local crab meat and the state does not require restaurants to identify the source of the meat. So how do you tell the difference? Look for the True Blue label.
The new True Blue Certification Program aims to boost the use of local crab meat and the local seafood economy by certifying establishments that can verify at least 75 percent of the crab meat used annually is harvested and/or processed in the state of Maryland. Qualifying restaurants are then able to advertise their certification with the True Blue logo. A list of restaurants and retail venues selling Maryland certified crab meat can be found on the Maryland DNR’s website.
If you want to purchase delicious, sustainable Maryland crab meat directly, check your local Whole Foods for Epicure Crab Meat. The authentic “Blue Crab crab meat” is harvested and processed naturally (without chemicals. additives or preservatives) by the J.M. Clayton Seafood Company, a fifth generation family operation (that just so happens to be the oldest working crab processing plant in the world ).