Most people may not understand the difference. Wild caught? Are we talking hunting in some crazy terrain here? No, we’re talking about fresh shrimp caught wild from the waters within the United States, mostly the gulf. This would be opposed to “farm raised” shrimp, which are grown in controlled and highly concentrated areas called ponds. Most farm raised shrimp are actually manufactured outside of the US in countries with tropical waters such as Thailand, Indonesia, Ecuador & Vietnam. Notice the word “manufactured”. It’s a little harsh, I’ll admit, but it’s the best word I can come up with to describe the whole process over just buying shrimp that was caught off a boat in US waters.
I recently read an article written by Jim Carrier in Orion magazine that described shrimp farms in other countries as a “saltwater feedlot”. Also that there can be as many as 170,000 shrimp larvae in a 1-acre pond that is 1 to 2 meters deep. Because of this density, the waste they swim in, and their susceptibility to disease, most farm raised shrimp ponds in these tropical countires are treated with tons of antibiotics.
The most common antibiotic used is chloramphenical, which is used to reduce the growth of bacteria and disease. A wide array of poisons are also used to kill unwanted sea life and cleanse ponds for reuse. Thank goodness chloramphenical is banned in the U.S., but for the countries that export their product to the U.S., little to none regulation exists in testing their product before it hits our supermarkets and our restaurants that purchase them.
The obvious thought and question to most would be, yuk! Why do these farms exist? Very simple. It’s called $$. Well, that’s not a word of course, but you get my symbolism…albeit literally. The cost per pound wholesale is significantly less than any wild caught shrimp on the market.
Sooo, the next time you’re on vacation and decide to hit the local AYCE seafood buffet or if you’re just at home and decide to go to that nationally famous seafood chain restaurant or nationally famous seafood fast food chain….maybe think again?? Seriously, they swim in and ingest their own …. well, I think enough said at this point.
Btw, I’m prohibiting myself of course from saying their names, but anyone can google, bing, etc., and find out that this seafood chain is the largest buyer of farm raised shrimp imported from other countries in the US. Oh, but when you’re standing in their restaurants nationwide, be sure to observe all of the fishing gear draping the walls, and most importantly — all of the pictures of fishing boats and the hard working fisherman supporting their trade hanging on their walls. GO USA!
I would like to note that ”aquaculture”, as it is named, can be a controlled and guided industry. Whole Foods, for example, has gone ahead of the curve in my opinion and takes great lengths to track and monitor every aspect of their farm raised products that are raised for their facilities. They also obviously are not supporting products that have antibiotics, etc. and know exactly where their product comes from, unlike many restaurant servers.
My final note will be this: I personally have never liked the taste, feel, texture or even smell of any farm raised product. This is something that ultimately comes down to personal taste and preference. Before I ever researched the difference between farm raised vs. wild caught, I noticed a significant difference in taste and texture between the two. Natural instinct has always made me go with wild caught. I’m from a beach town for goodness sake! I stole chicken legs from my mom’s freezer every chance I got, tied them up with a string and caught live crabs off the back of my dad’s boat as he ”worked” on it (because everyone knows a boat is a money pit and that’s all you end up doing is working on it…shhh)