Eating Crawfish: A Tasty Survival Food

Crawfish (also called crawdads, crayfish, stonecrabs and mud-bugs) can be boiled for a delicious treat or eaten raw (ideally with salt) as a high-protein survival food.

| July/August 1974

My twelve-year-old Girl Scout granddaughter came bursting into the room, bubbling with excitement. "Grampa! Grampa!" she squealed. "I ate a live crawdad and earned my merit badge."

"Doesn't sound very appetizing to me," I protested.

"Not bad with plenty of salt," insisted Jeanie. "Of course, if you have a fire you can boil them and they turn red and then their tails taste just like shrimp. But if you're desperate and starving you can eat them raw and they have lots of protein and can save your life. That's how I got my survival merit badge."

"Well, I'm sure glad you survived," I said, sending her along with an encouraging pat.

Jeanie was right: Crawfish are great survival food ... partly because you can find them almost everywhere. They're one of the most widely distributed crustaceans and thrive on every continent except Africa. Of the more than 300 known species, no less than 100 have been identified in the United States (where they're variously known as crayfish, crawdads, mudbugs, mini-lobsters, stonecrabs, etc.).

The critters — whatever you call them — look like very small lobsters. Each one is equipped with two claws in front, six or eight slender legs which permit it to walk around on the bottom and a flattened, broad tail which can be used as an emergency oar to send the mudbug shooting backward through the water as if jet-propelled.

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