What Is Imitation Crab Meat And What Have You Done With My Real Crab?

| by Jonathan Wolfe
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Here’s the scenario: you get home from the grocery store and want a bite to eat. Luckily you just got home from the grocery store, where, surprise, they sell food, so you have plenty. You reach into a bag and pull out that “Spicy Crab Dip” you just bought. Crab. Yum. Out of curiosity, you turn the tub over and read the ingredients.

First ingredient: imitation crab meat. What?

If you’re a seafood or sushi fan, you’ve no doubt crossed paths with this unfortunately named product in your life. But what exactly is it? Don’t fret. While it’s certainly not crab meat -- and it doesn’t really taste like it, either – it’s still seafood.  It’s just more or less the hotdog of seafood.

Imitation crab meat, or crab sticks, as they’re often called, is pulverized white fish – most often pollock. The fish is ground up into a pliable lump before crab flavoring and binding agents are added. Then, the fish is formed into whatever shape the manufacturer desires – often sticks – and a layer of red food coloring is slathered on the outside. Voila. Just like that, you’ve got a stick of fish that, in appearance and taste, somewhat resembles a crab leg.

Is it good for you? Kind of. It’s not bad for you, but it also packs nowhere near the nutritional punch of its authentic counterpart. Although real crab meat contains a bit more sodium than crab sticks, it also has much higher doses of other vital nutrients.

Here, courtesy of the Huffington Post, is a nutritional comparison of the two:

So, what’s the final verdict on imitation crab meat? It's nothing to freak out about. The only real problem is if a restaurant or store sells it to you as crab meat without telling you what you’re really getting. 

Sources: Huffington Post, Wikipedia

Photo Credit: Wikipedia, ilovebutter/Flickr