Whether skewered on kabobs, tossed in salads or dipped in a cocktail sauce, shrimp is a quintessential summer food. It’s no wonder shrimp has become our most popular seafood, since it is easy to prepare and can be dressed up or down.
Shrimp is great way to get in your weekly 8 ounces of seafood. A lean source of protein, shrimp has virtually no saturated fat. While shrimp is high in dietary cholesterol, nutritionists and scientists agree that unless dietary cholesterol intake is combined with high saturated fat, it does not elevate blood cholesterol.
But not all shrimp is created equal and where your shrimp is raised or caught can make a difference to your health and the environment. The big question: were they sustainably farmed or harvested? Shrimp farms are the number one threat to mangrove forests, the coastal wetlands that provide vital habitat for tropical fisheries and protect coastlines from damage by storms, hurricanes and tsunamis.
Issues with farm-raised shrimp include pollution, disease and escape. The U.S. has strict regulations on farming and trawling so fortunately, it is possible to buy shrimp that have been raised or caught with sound environmental practices. But you have to know what you are looking for.
When I shop for shrimp this is what I look for:
Most “fresh” shrimp sold in our supermarkets have been shipped frozen and then thawed for the fish counter. That means that the shrimp you find in the freezer aisle is exactly the same as what’s presented as “fresh” and generally less expensive!
Look for Certifications
Choose shrimp certified by an independent agency, such as Wild American Shrimp or the Marine Stewardship Council, which certifies that wild fisheries are well-managed and sustainable. Or look for the Best Aquaculture Practices label, which is for farmed (not wild) shrimp, raised without antibiotics and in conditions that exceed local environmental regulations. Only farms prohibiting practices that harm natural habitats are eligible for the label.
If you can’t find a certification, opt for wild-caught shrimp from North America—it’s more likely to be sustainably caught. The best choices are wild-caught MSC-certified pink shrimp from Oregon or their larger sisters, spot prawns, also from the Pacific Northwest or British Columbia, which are caught by traps. Avoid: imported shrimp.
Check out these summertime recipes:
Just remember — when you’re heading to the grocery store to pick out your shrimp, take a few minutes and take a look at the label to see where it came from. Your body and the environment will thank you!