Why Are Diver Scallops So Expensive?

Of the many kinds of shellfish available to seafood lovers today, is it any wonder that scallops are often named as a favorite? So soft and tender with a subtly mild flavor, they're a prized meat and rightfully so. But, not all scallops are created equal. Well, at least not all scallops are priced like they're created equal.

According to New England Today Foodscallops are typically categorized as either "day-boat scallops" or "diver scallops." Day boat scallops are harvested closer to shore from a smaller vessel, usually through dredging the seafloor. Meanwhile, the sought after, and very pricey diver scallops are scallops that have been hand-harvested carefully by divers rather than just dredged up from a boat.

It's also important to note the difference between "dry" and "wet" scallops. Dry scallops on the other hand are shucked on the boat and stored in a dry container, which preserves their flavors at the cost of a shorter shelf life, per Kitchn, and wet scallops are shucked on the boat and then stored in water, usually with preservatives that can potentially dilute flavors.

Diving deeper and deeper

As you can imagine, diving and hand picking scallops has a significantly lower impact on the environment. However, it is quite a labor intensive endeavor. According to Kitchn, the tremendous effort put forth by these divers, the expertise they bring to the harvesting, and the care with which they handle the scallops is what drives up the prices of diver scallops.

Scallop meat handled by professional divers is less stressed during the harvesting processes and is almost always treated as dry rather than wet to preserve the unique freshness of the diver scallops, per Fine Dining Lovers. These combined factors of exquisitely tasteful meat, very careful handling, and the environmentally friendly practices make for one expensive bit of shellfish. They're even hard to find at any restaurants. In fact, less than 1% of scallops caught are diver scallops. So, if you ever see them on a menu, take full advantage.