There has been a long-running debate on whether a crab should be classified under fish or meat.
It’s important to make the distinction because some cultures and religions have restrictions on what animals you can eat. So, what is crab?
In a way, crab is neither fish nor meat. Instead, it is biologically classified as shellfish, which means it’s a crustacean and not a real fish. However, if we go by the culinary dictionary definition, crab is meat because it’s animal flesh that is used for food.
This article looks at crab as a food source. Read on to get more insights on the crab as a fish and meat from a food science perspective.
Are Crab and Fish the Same Thing?
Taxonomically, crabs are not fish. They are decapod crustaceans in the order Brachyura. As a matter of fact, crabs are biologically more similar to insects than fish.
However, in the US, crab is considered shellfish for culinary purposes. The shellfish classification includes other crustaceans like shrimp, lobster, and oysters, which are also not fish.
Why are Crabs Considered Fish?
Since crabs are seafood in the culinary classification, many people assume they are fish. Seafood basically encompasses any edible animal from the sea.
Simply put, many people believe that everything that lives underwater is a fish.
However, apart from living underwater, fish and crabs have little in common. Here are some of the major differences.
- Fish are vertebrates with a backbone, while crabs are invertebrates with an exoskeleton.
- While crabs have hardened shells to protect their bodies, most fish have scales.
- Shrimp use limbs to move in the water while fish use their fins for swimming.
Why Are They Not Meat?
Many people don’t like to refer to aquatic animals as “meat.” In culinary terms, meat typically refers to flesh from land animals. Crabs are crustaceans that live in water. Therefore, many people do not consider them meat.
Even so, there are many ways to define meat and whether they are meat or not depends on your definition.
How Is Fish Different From Meat?
Technically, fish is meat because meat refers to flesh from edible animals. However, there are many other ways to classify meat.
Factors such as dietary restrictions, religious guidelines, and nutritional differences can be used to categorize meat.
Many people use the dictionary definition of meat, the flesh of animals used for food. With this interpretation, fish would be considered meat.
That said, some people consider meat as flesh from warm-blooded animals like birds, pigs, sheep, cattle, and chickens. Since fish are cold-blooded animals, they’d not be considered meat by this definition.
Other people refer to meat as flesh from fur-covered animals, which excludes animals like fish and birds.
Some religions have a say on whether fish counts as meat.
In Judaism, for instance, fish with scales and fins are referred to as “pareve.” This refers to food products made with kosher ingredients that are neither dairy nor meat.
Catholics, on the other hand, abstain from eating meat in the six-week period between Ash Wednesday and Easter. But only warm-blooded animals are considered meat, and cold-blooded ones like fish are okay to consume.
Differences in Health Effects
The potential benefits and nutritional profile of fish differ significantly from other types of meat. For instance, fish is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, selenium iodine, and thiamine, while red meat is packed with fat, vitamin B12, zinc, iron, and niacin.
Eating fish has been associated with many health benefits, including decreasing belly fat and lowering the risk of heart disease. Red meat, on the other hand, is associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease.
Read Also: Why is Fish Not Considered Meat?
How Do Vegetarians View Crab Diet?
As we’ve established, some classifications do not consider crab as meat. So, does that mean vegetarians can enjoy the seafood?
Vegans can’t eat food made from animals. This includes both warm-blooded and cold-blooded creatures regardless of whether they live on land or in water.
Crab, just like meat from any other animal, is not vegetarian. Neither is fish or any other seafood made from aquatic animals. Therefore, vegetarians cannot eat a carb diet.
That said, there’s a distinct group of vegetarians called pescatarians. They are similar to vegetarians in that they avoid meat from warm-blooded animals.
However, unlike vegetarians, they eat fish! They also eat animal products like eggs and dairy.
Is Crab Halal
The Islamic religion has a few guidelines on what one is allowed to eat. Permissible foods are referred to as halal (lawful), while forbidden ones are called haram (unlawful.) These guidelines are derived from the Qur’an and interpreted by Islam scholars.
While many scholars can’t reach a consensus on whether crab is haram or halal, most agree that seafood is halal. This is due to a Qur’an passage encouraging Muslims to eat fish, “…It is lawful for you to hunt and eat seafood, as a provision for you and for travelers…”(Qur’an 5:96)
However, some Islam scholars, such as those from the Shia sect, define halal seafood as only fish with scales.
Others also say that shellfish is haram because it causes allergic reactions to some people, which the Qur’an warns against, “…and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining]…”(Qur’an 2:195)
All in all, most Islamic scholars define crab and most seafood as halal. However, if you’re allergic to shellfish, it’s definitely haram for you.
Is Crab Healthy to Eat?
As a source of food, seafood is generally healthier than red meat. Crab, in particular, is packed with numerous health benefits, as we’ll see below.
Crab provides the same nutrients as other popular seafood but has lower mercury levels than swordfish, marlin, and tuna. It is rich in:
- Vitamin B12.
It also has 0 grams net carbohydrates per 100 grams serving and is very low in fats. The lack of carbohydrates makes it great for a keto diet.
Crab is rich in proteins and has high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. These nutrients are great for general well-being and have been linked to reducing the risk of some chronic diseases.