Louisiana Myths: What Happens if You Eat Straight-Tail Crawfish?
No doubt that Louisiana crawfish are the best in the world. Wild-caught crawfish, particularly from the Atchafalaya Basin area, are still the cornerstone of the state's thriving industry. Plus there are thousands of acres of crawfish ponds managed by farmers in the Gulf Coast region that provide a seemingly never-ending supply, annually harvesting 100 million pounds or more.
Don't Eat That One! It was Dead!
But for years lovers of this Louisiana delicacy are cautioned to avoid the crawfish with straight tails and eat only the ones whose tails are curled . The long-held theory for avoiding cooked crawfish with non-curled tails is a concern for food safety. It is believed by many that cooked crawfish with straight tails were dead before cooking, hence, it is best to avoid eating them.
LSU Scientists Spring Into Action
But researchers at Louisiana State University's Agriculture Center are taking a closer look.
To put the old the wives-tale to the test, Ag Center researchers put dead crawfish into a cooler with living ones for five days, then boiled them. And their result was somewhat surprising. They discovered that the tails of the dead crawfish, when cooked, curled just like the living ones.
But, That's Not What My Grandma Said
A recent article by KATC summarized the LSU Ag Center study:
"In summary, dead crawfish, even after five days in a cooler, exhibited about the same degree of curl as live crawfish when cooked. Therefore, this study suggests that the age-old adage of avoiding straight-tailed crawfish at a crawfish boil, as a means of ensuring safety and quality, may not be reliable and certainly has little to do with the living status of the animal at the time of cooking."
The researchers also conclude that in many cases, "some of the straight tails observed at a crawfish boil may be caused by crowding in the pot that upsets the natural process of tail curling during cooking."
So, Is Your Mind Changed?
And the Ag Center research concludes, "Therefore, this study suggests that the age-old adage of avoiding straight-tailed crawfish at a crawfish boil, as a means of ensuring safety and quality, may not be reliable and certainly has little to do with the living status of the animal at the time of cooking."