The New York Times has picked up the story of the crawfish-as-lobster scam at Zabars. The word is Zabar’s has since changed the name of the product to reflect the correct name of the species in it.
Zabar’s taxonomy argument for the old label is pretty lame. When you tell a normal person to think of a lobster, he or she will think of the large, red, salt-water crustacean with flavor qualities that justify a high price-per-pound. No consumer in his or her right mind would read “lobster” on a label and believe the product contained meat from any one of the dozens of creatures in the Nephropidae family. Zabar’s either intentionally mislead its customers or it took advantage of their ignorance of binomial nomenclature. It is fraud either way, and it is pretty unseemly behavior for such a highly esteemed retailer.
Mislabeling meat in order to fetch a better price has been done before. This grocery store chain in Minnesota faced a class-action suit from a consumer advocacy group for intentionally mislabeling commodity beef as “Black Angus” in order to command a premium price. The cause of action in the suit – common law fraud.