Seafood: Shrimp


Had William Shakespeare been a commercial fisherman instead of a bard, he might have said, “A shrimp by any other name would taste as sweet…” Or he might have said that about prawns too. The truth is difficult to nail down as big shrimp are often referred to as prawns, but small prawns are seldom called a shrimp.

Prawns and shrimp look very much alike and truth be told, taste very similar, especially when dipped into a spicy cocktail sauce with an ice-cold beer nearby. They are different though. Prawns tend to be much larger than their crustacean cousin the shrimp, but both delicacies have spindly legs that tippy toe on the floors of estuaries, rivers and in the ocean. It’s a bit surprising that shrimp tend to be solitary but massive schooling occurs when mating season rolls around. Everybody loves a party, even shrimp it seems.

90% of shrimp sold in the US come from farm operations in the southeastern US, and most of them farm white shrimp. Brown and pink shrimp are also farmed and it’s darn difficult to tell them apart as they’re all about the same color and turn pink when cooked. All have a firm sweet taste, but the white shrimp are easiest to peel. The shrimp industry in the US is closely regulated to prevent overfishing and keep bycatch at an absolute minimum. Because they are so resilient, their populations bounce back quickly when pressure has been put on them from commercial fisheries.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Rating
It’s still a crapshoot to determine if the shrimp or prawn on the grocer’s shelf is sustainable or not, at least if you consider the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seawatch ratings. Shrimp and prawns are all included in the same table, with every possible combination listed from farmed (avoid some Gulf farming operations) to “Best Choice” for wild caught shrimp and every other combination in between.

In Season at the Market