Friday, April 8, 2016

Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold

These tasty sea critters are a huge industry, and Rudloe tells all about it in his book Shrimp: The Endless Quest for Pink Gold.

There's a little history in the book: how shrimp became the mass-consumed, popular dish that it is today. But mostly the focus is on how fishing for shrimp (shrimping) is done. The author grew up with and accompanied a few shrimping crews, and came to understand their challenges and opportunities.

But as the industry has grown, so too has its environmental impact. As such, regulations have increased the cost of shrimping. While shrimp farming got off to a slow start (it took humans a long time to figure out how to grow shrimp to scale in controlled environments), it has become the dominant means of harvesting shrimp. Farming is so economic now that restaurants love to serve you this stuff. From the book:

"Sam Dunlap, who runs the Seineyard, a popular seafood restaurant in Woodville, Florida, said, "To me shrimp is a miracle food. They don't spoil unless you're negligent, they taste good, they're easy to prepare, and they're one of the most profitable items on a restaurant menu. It doesn't take a gourmet chef to cook them; you just thaw them out and boil, steam or bake them. We have fifteen to seventeen cents in a shrimp. We add a few garnishes to the plate, and our cost is two to three dollars, but we can charge eleven. You can't do that with other seafood. You need a 300% markup to make any profit in the restaurant business, and it's not there with most fish, but it is with shrimp."

Thanks to what I learned in the book, I have completely changed how I buy shrimp at the grocery store as well.



juan said...

I'm not sure I'll read the book, but am curious about how it made you change the way you buy shrimp at the grocery store. Could you please you tell us?

Saj Karsan said...

Hi Juan,

For one thing, "Pacific White" does not mean from the Pacific Ocean! Instead, it's the name of one of the most successfully (and therefore commonly) farmed species of shrimp.

For another, for whatever reason, larger shrimp are priced at a higher per pound rate than smaller shrimp. But smaller shrimp are apparently tastier.

juan said...

Useful info, Saj. I'll start buying the small ones. Thanks!