Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Prawns/Shrimps But Were Afraid To Ask

Whats the difference between a prawn and a shrimp?

Over the years it has become standard practice to refer to relatively larger size crustaceans as Prawns and their smaller peers as shrimp. As far as we are concerned, and by we I mean people of the sea like me and people involved in this trade, we simply stick to using the term shrimps since the Americans and Canadians use it (and thats a huge market). Apart from that terms such as “King” “Jumbo” “Tiger” are used in resturants and hotels to distinguish size. Usually most establishments stock the same species of shrimp.

Whats the black thing? Is it really......?

It is the shrimp's alimentary canal, think of it like a personal sewage pipe. For more information please read this Straight Dope article.

How to judge the quality of shrimp?

First you have the visual parameters, once the shrimp starts to decompose you black spots begin to appear, absence of black spots shows that the shrimp is fresh. Smell is another great way to determine good shrimp, fresh seafood should smell of the sea as opposed to the fishy smell. The fishy smell signals that the decomposition has begun, ofcourse it would be unrealistic to completely eliminate the fishy smell, but I hope you get my drift. Finally while consuming the shrimp it needs to judged by its texture, is it rubbery or is it just right? Overcooking shrimps spoils their texture, thus while preparing shrimp it needs to be just right.

Does shrimp taste vary by species?

Very much so and unfortunately this is one aspect that is often overlooked and ignored by consumers. Taste is something subjective but here are some basic guidelines. Freswater shrimps taste sweeter, in my opinion they are the best. Next in line is the famous Black Tiger shrimp, its scientific name is Penaeus Monodon. This was the dominant species globally however it is gradually being replaced by the Pacific White (L. Vannamei). The Pacific White is better suited for farming compared to the Black Tiger but in terms of taste the Black Tiger is clearly king. Please see the video for more information. For those with ultrasensitive palettes, shrimps sourced from lagoons and estuaries tend to taste better.

Which is better farmed shrimp or wild caught?

Farm raised shrimps' taste will depend on the conditions of the farm/pond. These conditions vary from water quality, salinity, temperature, areation and the stocking density of the pond. All of these factors affect the taste of the shrimp. My personal preference is for wild caught shrimps which have been sourced using sustainable methods.

What about presence of antibiotics and other carcinogens in Shrimp?

Recently there was a tv program on ABC which highlighted such concerns. A nice informative write up can be found here. Keep in mind that we are in the food industry and it is in my best interests to ensure that I supply safe and hygenic food. Apart from existing international and national regulations we also opt for third party audits in order a achieve a higher level of quality.

Are shrimps sourced from India clean?

The quality will vary by processor a good way to determine quality is by looking at the number of quality labels achieved by the processor. Examples of quality labels are: British Retail Consortium (BRC) , HACCP (Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Procedures) , BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) , ISO 22000. Keep in mind that having these labels do not gurantee quality as such, it would be best to procure shrimp and assess them as per the quality parameters listed above.

What about chemicals used?

Chlorinated water (that is water with a bit of chlorine) is used in the washing process. The level of chlorine usage follows food safety standards (HACCP and Europena Union norms), for more details please go through our plant HACCP manual. Apart from Chlorine, chemicals such as Sodium Tri Poly Phosphate (STPP) and other Non-Phosphate based chemicals are used mostly for the North American and European markets. All these chemicals are approved by the respective food safety authorities such as FDA (USA) , CIFA (Canda) and EU. These chemicals retain the moisture and give it a better taste. However I am interested in launching our brand of chemical free and relatively more sustainable shrimp. As of now the demand for that is very limited. Overall one should keep in mind that the term “chemicals” is always associated with something negative in our mind, meditating and contemplating about chemicals in a logical and rational way will ensure that we are not overwhelmed by our irrational emotional side.

What about antibiotics in shrimp?

This can be best addressed by reading this article

The use of antibiotics in farming is a major concern. In my house as far as meat consumption is concerned we prefer organic and free range. Ofcourse it is not certified organic since this is India, but we have a thorough local knowledge and source good products. I think with consumers opting for more organic standards the usage of antibiotics in shrimp farming will be completely eliminated. In Odisha this is not a problem at all since our farmers do not use antibiotics, for us a bigger problem is to comply with regulations and paperwork that are there in place to detect antibiotics usage despite the low proliferaton of usage.

What about labour practices in shrimp processing units?

While I have heard allegations of unfair labour practices in shrimp processing units, I doubt that any units based in India would engage in such practices. Being a democratic country and despite our various lapses in governance, I am really shocked at some of the allegations made against the industry. As an owner let me tell you that sourcing labour is one of my biggest challenge. With rising economic growth this will become a bigger challenge. So far from exploitative working conditions I am busy in developing innovative ways to encourage labourers to work in this industry. Wages paid in my factory are always higher than the government stipulated minimum wages.  

What about environmental consequence of consuming shrimp?

Please read the article about ethics and shrimp consumption.

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