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What's behind lobster, ice cream price increases?

Question Everything: What's behind lobster, ice cream price increases?
Question Everything: What's behind lobster, ice cream price increases? 04:43

BOSTON - Lobster. Fried Clams. Ice Cream. Mix in a little sun and sand and you have a perfect summer. But are you ready for summer sticker shock?

Our old enemy inflation is visiting for the summer and leaving a real mark. But, how does inflation lead to a $45 lobster roll? Or a $7 small ice cream?

For those answers, I headed to Cape Cod.

On a picture-perfect Friday morning, I met a lobsterman straight out of central casting as he headed straight out to sea and straight for his traps. Eighty-year-old Dave Casoni has been pulling lobsters for five decades. It's a tough job. There is no lazy man behind a lazy man lobster.

"This is kind of a fruitless endeavor," Casoni told me plucking empty lobster pots from the ocean off Sandwich.

We pulled in just two legal lobsters in the few hours I was with Casoni. It was not a surprise, since Casoni just got his traps in the water.

"No lobster traps at all can be put in the water in February, March, April and May," says Casoni, who is also the Treasurer for the Mass. Lobsterman Association.

Lobstermen have to keep their traps out of the water in late winter-early spring because of the endangered Northern Right Whale.

To protect them from entanglement, lobstermen can't have traps in the water or harvest until June. Waiting for the whales to leave means, this time of year, your lobster is most likely from Canada.

"It's supply and demand. We can't supply and so they have to get their supply elsewhere and that increases the price," Casoni said. 

The lobster roll is the perfect example of where the prices have gone. We looked at the prices for 10 restaurants praised for their lobster rolls-- from the Cape to Boston to Cape Ann. All of the rolls that were at least six ounces cost between $32 and $45.

Lobster roll prices
Lobster roll prices in Massachusetts CBS Boston

But the buyers at the dock are only paying Casoni six bucks a pound. 

I asked Casoni as we sped across the ocean, "Someone who's paying $35 dollars for a lobster roll right now might be thinking 'Oh those lobstermen are raking it in right now,' no?"

"Oh no that's a fallacy. And I don't think anybody is. With the graduated cost of everything, I don't think a restaurant is making a killing," Casoni said. 

Then how does $6 lobster at the dock become a $35 lobster roll? I asked Kevin Mendes from Cost Control Restaurant Group. He buys seafood for 50 local restaurants.

"It's a global market. So when China comes in and buys hundreds of thousands of pounds of lobsters the price goes up. And fuel is more expensive. Transportation is more expensive. Drivers cost more. Storage, all the factors of selling lobsters is costing more money," Mendes said. 

One restaurant showed me its receipts for food deliveries. Lobster that was $24 per pound pre-pandemic now costs $48. A gallon of clams for your clam plate cost $100 and now it's $130-$180.

At Kate's Seafood and Ice Cream in Brewster. The owner, Kathy Ohman, says it's the ice cream she's struggling with. She used to be able to stock 50 flavors and now she can only buy 33 and the prices are another story. Her small ice cream costs $7.48.

Ice cream prices
CBS Boston

"Ice cream prices are out of control," she said.  

A three-gallon tub of vanilla went from $18 to $24 and some flavors are as high as $40 a tub. She charges the same no matter what flavor you order and customers aren't complaining. It's the Cape and ice cream is part of the fabric of a Cape Cod vacation.

Customers at Kate's told us they didn't mind paying the prices at a mom-and-pop shop that has been in business 38 years.

John Manning told me, "The big companies are making the profits. It's not the small guys."

Back on the lobster boat, Dave Casoni tells me he's definitely not getting rich. He has a saying: "If you want to make a million dollars... as a lobsterman, you better start with two million." 

If you have a question you'd like us to look into, please email    

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