Innovation #4: Handy Chilled Dressed Soft Crabs – 100% Usable

Chilled dressed SSC

Handy Seafood, the oldest seafood processing company in the United States, is the first to reach 125 years old.  Handy is celebrating this milestone achievement by highlighting products introduced through the years.  Handy’s April innovation focuses on soft crabs.

Soft crabs and Handy have been regarded as “one and the same” since 1917 when Handy began innovating ways to reach new markets.  Back then Handy found ways to keep soft crabs alive, first as they traveled by rail to northeast markets and then by air worldwide. Handy perfected IQF frozen and moved the crabs along highways to open up new markets across the nation.  Frozen containers to Asia and Europe, another first, soon followed.  Then came Handy’s innovation of Chilled Dressed Soft Crabs which found its place among retailers and cost conscious chain restaurants.

Chilled dressed began with a visit from Annette, a Handy customer, who was looking for something different.  She stated “my restaurants and retailers want to feature fresh soft crabs without the complications of keeping them alive”.

Annette and Handy’s Processing Manager, Patti Laird, went to work. To make soft crabs ready-to-cook Patti suggested cleaning and hand wrapping.  To extend the shelf life she chilled the crabs to a temperature just above freezing.  Patti was thrilled with the first shelf life test results -- 6 to 10 days.  Annette was elated too.  “Fresh soft crabs are now 100% usable. New markets here I come!”

That was 35 years ago.  Patti is still Handy’s plant manager and continues to perfect the high standards she and Annette set.

Chilled dressed soft crabs from the Chesapeake continue to grow. They’re found from New York to Seattle in fine dining restaurants, on ice in the deli section of retailers, and multi-until chains.  Great to collaborate with a creative customer!

To download a printable PDF, click here.


Handy Seafood is a family-owned company with 125 years of quality seafood processing. Products include soft shell crabs, crab meat, crab cakes, seafood specialty items, oysters and artisanal fish.