Can you believe there was once a time when canned lobster was cheaper to buy than cans of baked beans? UK-based Vouchercloud put together a fascinating infographic detailing how public perception affects value. While the graphic highlights several modern cases, the story of lobster is truly astonishing.

In the early 19th century, canned lobster was a garbage meat that cost around 11 cents a pound, and was considered only fit for cat food. Only after railway companies began offering it on dining car menus did the humble lobster’s fortunes begin to turn around.

As Daniel Luzer wrote for Pacific Standard:

“If no one knew what lobster was, trains could serve it to passengers as if it were a rare, exotic item, even thought it was very cheap for those running the railroad to procure it. Inland passengers were intrigued. This lobster was delicious. Passengers, who didn’t know lobster was considered trash food on the coast, started to love it and began to ask for it even after they left the train.”

Prices and popularity continued to rise until the Great Depression hit. Since no one could afford the now-luxurious lobster, it landed solidly back in canneries as a cheap source of protein sent to U.S. and Allied military troops. Kids in Maine prior to WWII were embarassed to take lobster meat sandwiches to school, because it was a dead giveaway that their families were poor.

All that stopped with World War II. Why? Lobster was one food that wasn’t rationed. Soon all class pretensions were dropped, and everyone was snacking on that tasty crustacean like it was going out of style.

Here’s the story of lobster, as told through Vouchercloud’s handy infographic. You can view their full Perception of Value infographic here.

perception of value infographic

[via Vouchercloud]