The Truth About Red Lobster's Ultimate Feast

Established as a family-owned seafood restaurant in 1968, Red Lobster has come a long way since its single Lakeland, Florida, location. Today, Red Lobster is the largest seafood restaurant company in the world, with 58,000 employees and 700 locations across the globe. With the goal of providing high-quality seafood across both coastal and non-coastal regions, the popular chain prides itself on only sourcing its produce from suppliers that follow the best sustainability practices in the industry.

One of the favorites on Red Lobster's menu is the Ultimate Feast, a sampling platter that consists of a Tender Main Lobster Tail, Wild-Caught North American Snow Crab Legs, Garlic Shrimp Scampi, and Walt's Favorite Shrimp. The masterpiece is served with cocktail sauce, melted butter, lemon, and a choice of two side dishes. While there's little doubt that the Ultimate Feast showcases the very best of what Red Lobster has to offer, the dish has a few secrets up its sleeve. After a little digging, here's what we've found out about Red Lobster's Ultimate Feast.

Red Lobster's Ultimate Feast isn't good for you

Seafood is packed with nutrients including iron, vitamins B and D, and omega-3s (via WebMD). As such, it's little wonder that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration recommends consuming at least 8 ounces of seafood a week. When it comes to restaurant offerings, however, there may be more to seafood dishes than meets the eye. Red Lobster's Ultimate Feast is a case in point. Befitting its name, the meal is huge, and its overwhelming range of culinary delights are no doubt sustaining many unhealthy dietary habits.

While the main stars of the Ultimate Feast are lobster, crab, and shrimp, the meal is also served with melted butter, cocktail sauce, and two sides. All in all, the dish is composed of 1,190 calories, 72 grams of fat, 465 milligrams of cholesterol, and 3,850 milligrams of sodium. Right there, this dish maxes out our daily allowance of these unhealthy nutrients. Put another way, if you wanted to burn off the Ultimate Feast, you would have to walk for 331 minutes, jog for 137 minutes, or cycle for 182 minutes (via Calorie King).

Red Lobster's Ultimate Feast is served with Maine lobster ... or is it?

Red Lobster advertises that its Ultimate Feast is served with a "Maine lobster tail," which is popular for its tender and sweet meat. Nevertheless, the restaurant has previously admitted that it actually offers three types of lobster. When interviewed, a spokesperson for Red Lobster told Inside Edition, "Red Lobster ... serves a variety of lobster on its menu, including North American lobster, Maine lobster, and langostino lobster. As a seafood expert, Red Lobster understands that the seasonality and availability of lobster can fluctuate."

The good news is that langostinos, which cost much less than actual lobster meat, are rather small, so their presence in the Ultimate Feast would be rather easy to detect. However, while langostinos may be tricky to disguise as lobster tails, they could quite easily pose as lobster chunks or morsels. And this is precisely what was discovered at Red Lobster when Inside Edition did DNA testing on the meat in the restaurant's lobster bisque soup. The testing showed that the meat from one location was langostino, and from two others, a mix of langostino and lobster.

Red Lobster partnered with the fleet from Deadliest Catch to bring you Ultimate Feast's snow crab legs

Not all seafood is created equal — that's why it's always good to know the origins of your fish, lobster, or crab. According to "Today," there's a chance that the snow crab legs, which form such a vital part of the Ultimate Feast, may have been caught by the fishermen from the hit reality TV show "Deadliest Catch." While it's easy to think that the "Deadliest Catch" crew is putting their lives at risk just to entertain us, they are actually working. And a lot of their snow crab haul is sold to Red Lobster.

Spurred by a commitment to sustainable fishing, the partnership between Red Lobster and "Deadliest Catch" started back in 2015. "Red Lobster's been working with suppliers in Alaska for many, many years. I'm very proud of the high-quality crab Josh and Casey of the Cornelia Marie bring to Red Lobster," said Red Lobster's Director of Procurement, Skip Frisz, referring to Captains Josh Harris and Casey McManus from "Deadliest Catch" (via Delish). Another "Deadliest Catch" crew member, Captain Jake Anderson, further explained, "There are specific rules about the types of crabs we can catch and how many can be caught during fishing season" (via Red Lobster).

People were outraged when Red Lobster increased the price of the Ultimate Feast

There's little doubt that the Ultimate Feast is one of Red Lobster's most popular dishes. So when the restaurant apparently upped the price of the platter in 2018, seafood enthusiasts weren't impressed. Netizens were quick to take their dismay to social media. "While Facebook is under much scrutiny, don't let this distract you from the fact that Red Lobster's Ultimate Feast price went up by $4 and the portions got noticeably smaller!" wrote one Twitter user, referring to the 2018 congressional hearing about Facebook's role in the Cambridge Analytica 2016 election scandal. Delish even suggested that the backlash against the price hike might have been anti-Red Lobster bots, due to the similar wording of multiple social media posts.

So did the price of the Ultimate Feast actually go up? It appears that it did. And according to a disgruntled TripAdvisor reviewer, the price hike wasn't the only change: "When we got the plate it looked bare. There was no rice like normal, and portions were clearly much, much smaller ... We were actually still hungry after finishing the plate while normally we would have been stuffed." 

Red Lobster's Ultimate Feast may contain defrosted seafood

This might come as a surprise, but not all of Red Lobster's seafood offerings are delivered to your table right from the ocean. In a Reddit post, a Red Lobster employee wrote, "For the sake of delivery, most of our seafood comes frozen. This is almost unavoidable as it must travel from sea to our store." According to the Red Lobster website, some of its seafood is "frozen on the fishing boats or immediately at the docks to maintain the best quality and freshness." The website then goes on to point out that it's precisely due to this flash-freezing process that Red Lobster is able to deliver high-quality seafood, even when it's out of season.

While the idea of eating defrosted seafood may put you off ordering the Ultimate Feast ever again, it shouldn't. Flash-freezing refers to the process of freezing seafood shortly after it's caught or harvested when it's still at the peak of freshness. The process involves ultra-low temperatures and rapid freezing to minimize the formation of ice crystals in fish tissue. This, in turn, helps to ensure that the fish retains its original flavor and texture, as well as its nutrients (via Wild Alaskan Company).

Red Lobster's Create Your Own Ultimate Feast was highly popular

Red Lobster celebrated the holiday seasons of 2018 and 2019 with the launch of a Create Your Own Ultimate Feast, a spin on the original dish that saw diners mastermind their own seafood extravaganzas. The promo let guests select four out of ten classic and new seafood specialties: one lobster item, one seafood item, and two shrimp items. Some of the dishes on offer included Butter-Poached Maine Lobster Meat, Wood-Grilled Sea Scallops, and Crab-Stuffed Shrimp Rangoon. The feast was topped off with a choice of salad, side, and Cheddar Bay Biscuits (via Red Lobster).

Executive Chef and Director of Culinary at Red Lobster, Dustin Hilinski, said that Create Your Own Ultimate Feast was brought back in 2019 due to its popularity the previous year. So what's the verdict? A YouTube reviewer rated the Cheddar Bay Biscuits and Caesar Salad ten out of ten, before calling the Classic Main Lobster Tail "succulent," the Garlic Shrimp Scampi "fantastic," and the Jumbo Coconut Shrimp "Amazing." A TripAdvisor reviewer was also very happy with the promo: "We ordered a create your own ultimate feast consisting of lobster tail, snow crab legs, Walt's favorite shrimp, and coconut shrimp. The food was delicious."

Red Lobster's Ultimate Feast may not be as sustainable as the restaurant would have you believe

The Red Lobster website promises that all of its seafood is "sourced with standards" in line with the "responsibility to protect and preserve our oceans and marine life for generations to come." More specifically, the restaurant highlights that the origins of its seafood are 100 percent traceable to trusted sources, which follow sustainability practices and all applicable laws. However, these environmental statements have been put into question in a 2021 lawsuit that asserts that the chain's claims of sustainability are deceptive.

The class action suit alleges that Red Lobster's Maine lobster and shrimp are, in fact, not sustainably sourced. According to the claim, the restaurant's Maine lobster is sourced from the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery, which has been found to violate the Endangered Species Act and has had its sustainability certification revoked. The lawsuit also alleges that Red Lobster's shrimp is sourced from farms in India, China, Indonesia, and Vietnam, which use "unsustainable and inhumane high-density industrial farming methods to increase production" (via Plant Based News). The jury is still out on this one.