Healthy vs. Harmful “Farmed” Shrimp

Ever-increasing awareness about our food and its origins is leading people to make healthier, sustainable choices. Shrimp are a delicious and healthy “super food” but they are often left off the table. We hear about the damaging effects of open-pen shrimp farms and low sanitary standards of imported shrimp. To many people, “farm-raised” shrimp come with bad connotations. What we often don’t realize, however, is that healthy, sustainable, farm-raised shrimp are available, and they’re a lot closer to home than you may think.


About 90% of shrimp consumed in our country comes from foreign importers. This means that much of the shrimp that reaches our dinner table isn’t subject to the beneficial environmental regulations and limitations respected within the U.S. Open-pen shrimp farms can have devastating impacts on global oceans, especially in countries with few environmental guidelines and little government oversight. Large concentrations of shrimp in small bodies of water produce too much waste to regulate naturally, creating dead zones where other marine plants and creatures are unable to survive.

Foreign open-pen shrimp farms require shallow water to house nets and shrimp cages. Much of the area obtained by foreign shrimp farmers comes at the cost of precious mangrove habitat. Mangroves provide stabilization for sediment and an important buffer to coastal regions against devastating storms, like hurricanes. Mangroves also offer an essential habitat to juvenile marine and land-based fauna. By eliminating mangroves, open-pen shrimp farmers destroy breeding grounds and nursery habitats necessary to the continuation of marine animals throughout the world. Over 38% of mangrove habitats around the world have already been destroyed, an event that researchers predict will likely have drastic consequences on our global marine populations.

With large populations crammed into tiny spaces, shrimp in open-pen farms become a target for disease and predation. To retain their stock, foreign farmers often treat shrimp with high doses of pharmaceuticals. These drugs often include antibiotics that have been banned in the U.S. and may not be removed from the shrimp’s system even after freezing and cooking.


Upstream pollution further contaminates shrimp, particularly in areas without advanced human waste disposal capabilities. Harvested shrimp may also be kept on ice made from untreated water, or exposed to warm temperatures for too long before freezing.

Once it reaches the U.S., the high volume of imported shrimp couples with limited FDA resources so that just 2% of the imports are tested to meet quality standards. Shrimp that makes its way to a local restaurant or grocery store often cannot be matched with an originating country, giving you no insight into the potential impact it may have on your family’s health.

Unlike foreign imports, shrimp raised in the U.S. have a certain amount of bragging rights. Restaurants are proud to provide their customers the highest quality seafood, and often print the shrimp origins on the menu or include the location in the dish’s name. Strict environmental and food safety policies influence food raised in the U.S. and conscious consumers can learn more about the foods they feed their families.

Unlike open-pen shrimp farms, closed-loop aquaculture systems, like Florida Organic Aquaculture, are land-based and centered in agricultural areas. Instead of destroying precious coastal habitat, many land-based aquaculture farms take advantage of innovative engineering to utilize a minimum of space. Modern technologies help create habitats for shrimp that maximize their health and comfort.

Closed-loop recirculating aquaculture systems use less water much more effectively, monitoring it continuously to ensure a high quality. Closed-loop means just that, it’s closed. Water quality is maintained within the system with small additions to offset evaporation, rather than polluted water being dumped into the surrounding environment. By eliminating the overcrowded, polluted conditions of open-pen farms, closed-loop shrimp growers eliminate the need for harmful pharmaceuticals and pesticides.

Shrimp raised in the U.S. also reach your table faster, offering a fresh alternative. Often imported shrimp is flash frozen, and purchased by consumers 6 to 9 months after its harvest date. In contrast, locally grown shrimp may not require freezing, and can often be put on ice until they reach your plate within a day or two of harvest. Florida Organic Aquaculture shrimp, for example, are sold fresh, never frozen, and feature a longer shelf life than frozen and thawed shrimp foreign shrimp.

Land-based aquaculture facilities within the U.S. offer long-term benefits as well. Florida Organic Aquaculture encourages valuable partnerships with scholastic researchers and non-profit agencies to advance aquaculture technologies. By utilizing cutting edge technologies we can grow healthy, sustainable food without the harmful impacts of past methods.


As consumers become even more conscious of their foods’ origins demand will increase for positive alternatives. When we become aware of what we eat we influence the marketplace, and guide the food growing trends that will impact our families for generations to come. Choosing beneficial, sustainable foods, like Florida Organic Aquaculture’s Happy Healthy Shrimp, will erase the demand for sub-standard products that harm our environment and our futures.