Anyone who has ever eaten a steamed Blue Crab knows how difficult and tedious it can be to get the meat out of the crab's hard shell.  But, oh is it worth it once you do!  What a tasty treat.  But what about the cans of already picked crab meat and that used in restaurant dishes (crab cakes, crab imperial, crab soup, etc.)?  As difficult as it is to remove the meat, who does it on such a big scale?

I know someone whose mother removes crab meat out of Blue Crabs ("picks crabs") for a living.  This woman has been picking crab meat since she was a little girl.  She held her own mother's hand, as a little girl, when her mother walked to the local crabhouse to pick crabs.  Her mother did it until she was in her late 70's.  It's a hard life.  She wakes up at 3 AM, has a slice of toast and a cup of coffee, and waits for a van to pick her up and take her to the local crabhouse where she works until about 10 AM.  There, she picks the meat from hundreds of crabs and puts it into various cans (jumbo lump, backfin, or claw meat). This woman is probably the fastest picker in the crabhouse. She can pick over 30 pounds of meat per day. She also produces some of the finest and cleanest meat (hardly any shells or crab by-products) of the 15 or so women who work alongside her in the picking house. This woman is now 76 years old. This is the only occupation that she has ever had and the only job that she has ever wanted to do. It's a tough life though, standing on a usually wet, concrete, floor in a damp and very warm or very cool and drafty atmosphere day-in and day-out, hands and crab meat flying. The pay? $2.50 per pound. After a long season, ending in late November, she and her coworkers look forward to the winter respite and their seasonal unemployment checks.  Just a couple of weeks to go. 

Who is this lady who picks the meat from the crabs? I am proud to say that this lady is my mother. She has been working for Tideland Seafood, in Wingate, Maryland, for about five years now.  Before that, she worked for 42 years for a local crab company that just closed the doors one day and the owners didn't even call her or others who had worked there for so many years to even let them know that they had closed.  No gold watch, no pension, and not even a"Thank You." Ah, yes, it's a tough life. Living on the Eastern Shore of Maryland and working in the local economy that depends on the Bay is tough. I held my mother's hand, as a little boy, and went to the crab house with her. I will never forget that.

If you ever get a chance, visit one of the local crab houses and see just how fast someone can pick a crab. It will probably surprise you.  Go in the Summer time and, while you're there, buy a couple of pounds of freshly picked meat.  You won't be disappointed!

So now you know who removes the meat from the crabs. It's the hard working people like my mother who do it and who are very proud of doing that for a liviing . . .  and I'm so proud of my hard-working mother and of my eastern shore upbringing and heritage.