Saturday, July 6, 2013

Waiting On Gulf Shrimp Season

The next time you are in the market for wild caught, Gulf brown shrimp you may notice a higher price tag.  Gulf shrimp season has been delayed this year, causing prices to rise as inventories of frozen shrimp are depleted.  Alabama shrimp season partially opened on June 21st, a few weeks later than the usual opening.  Alabama Marine Resources Director Chris Blankenship cited cooler water temperatures and heavy rain as the natural forces that are retarding the growth of shrimp to legal size.  The scene in the Gulf of Mexico, namely Texas, is even worse.  That season will not open until July 15th.  Right now governing agencies are allowing the species to grow to a larger, marketable size in order to prevent waste from throwing undersized shrimp back into the water.

Wild caught, domestic brown shrimp are one of the most sustainable shrimp options in the market, and one of the tastiest.  Other options are not as soundly harvested or as delicious.  Recently, non-domestic, imported farmed shrimp operations have faced allegations of human trafficking and deplorable working conditions for employees.  Unfortunately, in many of these cases, such allegations have proved to be true.  This news has caused many to switch to domestic wild caught shrimp for their dietary needs, putting even more pressure and demand on the industry.  It also doesn't help the situation that Gulf brown shrimp is also one of the tastiest shrimp on the market.  Black Restaurant Group selected this particular species of shrimp as the standard to be offered at each of our restaurants after taste testing several varieties.  Wild brown shrimp offer a crisp texture and distinctly sweet shellfish flavor and are great in many different cooking preparations including sauteing, grilling, and frying.  Even after freezing they remain firm with an assertive, delicious flavor.

There is a silver lining to all of this though.  Delaying the season will allow the shrimp to grow, meaning when harvest really gets going the shrimp should average larger sizes bringing the price down on bigger shrimp.   You won't see these results until the fall though, and for the meantime prices could go even higher.  So be patient and wait out the storm so to speak.  My advice would be to add some inexpensive clams or mussels to your shrimp dish, using a little less shrimp while still getting your fix and keeping your wallet fat.  The worst thing you could do is switch to an imported farm raised shrimp to save a few bucks.  You would not only be supporting a sustainably questionable operation, but also you might find that, while keeping a few dollars in your wallet,
you missed the boat on a lot of flavor.

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