October 20, 2018
Finding Better Shrimp

Finding Better Shrimp

by Berkeley Wellness  

The supply chain for shrimp, like all seafood, is complex, which makes it hard to know where and how it’s farmed. According to the Seafood Watch program from Monterey Bay Aquarium, there are about 400,000 shrimp farming operations worldwide, along with countless processing plants, importers, distributors, stores, and restaurants that sell the farmed shrimp.

Still, if you’re willing to do a little detective work, you can seek out responsibly raised or sustainably sourced shrimp—meaning that the shrimp are not overfished and that the methods used don’t threaten wild populations or harm the environment.

While seafood guides give much imported farmed shrimp a red light, domestic shrimp fares far better in general. Because it’s raised on a smaller scale in the U.S. and is subject to stringent safety and environmental standards and federal inspections, it gets a “Best Choice” from Seafood Watch, for example—though you’re likely to pay a higher price. And even some imported farmed shrimp gets a nod as a “good alternative”—notably shrimp from farms in Ecuador and from farms in Thailand that use fully recirculating systems.

Keep in mind that some (but not all) wild shrimp can also be good choices, depending on the type, where it’s from, and how it’s harvested—though according to a report last year from the conservancy group Oceana, farmed shrimp is often mislabeled as wild shrimp.

For guidance in your selections, you can use various seafood guides (though some may give conflicting advice); seek out products that carry independent certification from organizations such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Global Aquaculture Alliance, Naturland, and the Canadian government (Canada Organic); or ask a trusted fishmonger about their source. For more about mislabeled seafood, see our article Seafood Labeling Fraud.