Shrimp Academy

Shrimp ranks number one

in volume among the various types of seafood consumed in the United States, and each American eats about 4.1 pounds of shrimp per year. Shrimp consumption in the U.S. also crosses all geographic and demographic boundaries and is equally popular in homes and restaurants.

 

 

How to Read Package Labeling

Labeling Infographic

BROWN SHRIMP

Brown Shrimp

Brown shrimp are one of the three species of penaeid shrimp harvested in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. Fisheries for brown, pink, and white shrimp are some of the most valuable fisheries in the southeastern United States. Nearly 97 percent of the brown shrimp harvested in the United States comes from the Gulf, mainly from Texas and Louisiana. Brown shrimp are available fresh and frozen year-round.

Scientific name: Farfantepenaeus aztecus

Locally known as: Brownies, Green Lake Shrimp, Red Shrimp, Redtail Shrimp, Golden Shrimp, Native Shrimp, Summer Shrimp

Source: U.S. wild-caught from North Carolina to Texas

Flavor: Strong, slightly salty, with a pure natural flavor

Texture: Firm, never stringy or mushy

Physical description
Brown shrimp are crustaceans with 10 slender, relatively long walking legs and five pairs of swimming legs located on the front surface of the abdomen. They are grooved on the back surface of the shell and have a well-developed, toothed rostrum (part of their shell) that extends to or beyond the outer edge of the eyes. The tails of brown shrimp usually have a purple to reddish purple band and green or red pigmentation.

Location & Habitat
Brown shrimp are found from off Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, to the Florida Keys and along the Gulf Coast to northwestern Yucatan in Mexico. They live in shallow water, generally less than 180 feet deep but up to 360 feet deep. As they grow, they migrate seaward to deeper, saltier water. They travel primarily at night especially, at or shortly after dusk and bury themselves in the bottom substrate during the day. When in inshore waters, shrimp like areas with muddy or peaty bottoms rich in organic matter and decaying vegetation. Offshore, brown shrimp are most abundant on soft bottoms of mud and sand.

Biology
Brown shrimp are able to reproduce when they reach about 5 1/2 inches long. They spawn in relatively deep water. Females typically release about 500,000 to 1 million eggs near the ocean floor. Scientists aren’t sure exactly when shrimp spawn, but they do know that large numbers of newly hatched shrimp enter estuaries in February and March to settle in their nursery habitat.

Source: Eat Alabama Wild Seafood

WHITE SHRIMP

White Shrimp

White shrimp are one of the three species of penaeid shrimp harvested in the South Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. White shrimp was the first species of commercially important shrimp in the United States — the white shrimp fishery dates back to 1709. Nearly 90 percent of the white shrimp harvested in the U.S. comes from the Gulf, mainly from Louisiana and Texas. Prized for their sweet, tender meat and easy-to-peel shells, white shrimp are caught year-round, with peaks in the fall.

Scientific name: Litopenaeus setiferus

Locally known as: Northern White Shrimp, Gray Shrimp, Lake Shrimp, Green Shrimp, Common Shrimp, Daytona Shrimp, Southern Shrimp

Source: U.S. wild-caught from North Carolina to Texas

Flavor: Mild with a natural sweetness

Texture: Slightly more tender than other shrimp, with shells that are easier to peel

Physical Description
White shrimp are crustaceans with 10 slender, relatively long walking legs and five pairs of swimming legs located on the front surface of the abdomen. Unlike brown and pink shrimp, white shrimp are not grooved. Part of their shell is a well-developed, toothed rostrum that extends to or beyond the outer edge of the eyes. White shrimp can also be distinguished from other species by their much longer antenna (2.5 to 3 times longer than their body length), light gray body color, green coloration on the tail, and the yellow band on part of the abdomen.

Location & Habitat
White shrimp are found off the Atlantic Coast and Gulf of Mexico, specifically from Fire Island, New York, to St. Lucie Inlet on the Atlantic Coast of Florida, and from the Ochlochonee River on the Gulf Coast of Florida to Campeche, Mexico. They live in shallow water, generally less than 90 feet deep but up to 270 feet deep. Young shrimp live and grow in nursery areas with muddy bottoms and low to moderate salinity. White shrimp commonly inhabit estuaries and coastal areas out to about 100 feet offshore. White shrimp are often found in association with other shrimp species, specifically brown shrimp P. aztecus.

Biology
White shrimp are able to reproduce when they reach about 5 1/2 inches long. White shrimp spawn when offshore bottom water temperatures increase, generally from May through September in the Carolinas and from March through September further south in the Gulf of Mexico. Males mate with females and anchor their sperm to the females. Females typically release about 500,000 to 1 million eggs near the ocean floor; the eggs are fertilized as they are released. Newly hatched shrimp travel to their estuarine nursery habitats in April and early May. They return to the ocean as adults within a few months.

Source: Eat Alabama Wild Seafood

PINK SHRIMP

Pink Shrimp

Nearly 85 percent of the pink shrimp harvested in the United States comes from the west coast of Florida. Prized for their sweet, tender meat, pink shrimp are caught fresh year-round, but are more abundant during winter months.

Scientific name: Farfantepenaeus duorarum

Locally known as: Spotted Shrimp, Hopper, Pink Spotted Shrimp, Brown Spotted Shrimp, Grooved Shrimp, Green Shrimp, Pink Night Shrimp, Red Shrimp, Skipper, Pushed Shrimp

Source: U.S. wild-caught from North Carolina to Texas, but mainly from Florida

Flavor: Mild, sweet

Texture: Firm, tender

Physical Description
Pink shrimp are crustaceans with 10 slender, relatively long walking legs and five pairs of swimming legs located on the front surface of the abdomen. They are grooved on the back surface of the shell and part of their shell is a well-developed, toothed rostrum that extends to or beyond the outer edge of the eyes. Pink shrimp typically have a dark colored spot on each side between their third and fourth abdominal segments. Their tail usually has a dark blue band (rather than the purplish band found on brown shrimp).

Location & Habitat
Pink shrimp are found in the western north Atlantic from southern Chesapeake Bay to the Florida Keys, and around the coast of the Gulf of Mexico to the Yucatan south of Cabo Catoche, Mexico. They’re most abundant off southwestern Florida and the southeastern Gulf of Campeche. Young shrimp live and grow in nursery areas with marsh grasses (Spartina alterniflora and Juncus spp. in the South Atlantic and Gulf). These grassy areas offer abundant food and shelter. As they grow, they migrate seaward to deeper, saltier water. They travel primarily at night especially at or shortly after dusk and bury themselves in the bottom substrate during the day. Smaller pink shrimp remain in the estuary during winter. They bury themselves deep in the substrate to protect themselves from cold weather. Shrimp that survive the winter grow rapidly in late winter and early spring before migrating to the ocean. Pink shrimp are commonly found on sand, sand-shell, or coral-mud bottoms.

Biology
Pink shrimp are able to reproduce when they reach about 3.3 inches long. Off North Carolina, they spawn in May through July; in Florida they spawn multiple times, peaking from April through July when the water is warmest. Males mate with females and anchor their sperm to the females. Females typically release about 500,000 to 1 million eggs near the ocean floor; the eggs are fertilized as they are released. Newly hatched shrimp travel to their estuarine nursery habitats in late spring and early summer, propelled by shoreward currents. They return to the ocean as adults in a few months.

Source: Eat Alabama Wild Seafood

BROWN ROCK SHRIMP

Brown rock shrimp are the deep-water cousin of the common pink, white, and brown shrimp also found in the warm waters of the southeastern United States. It is the largest of six rock shrimp species found in this area. Rock shrimp are often called the “little shrimp with a big lobster taste.” They can easily be mistaken for a miniature lobster tail, and the texture of their meat also is similar to lobster. Most of the U.S. harvest comes from the east coast of Florida (mainly off the Cape Canaveral area).

Scientific name: Sicyonia brevirostris

Locally known as: Rock Shrimp

Source: U.S. wild-caught from North Carolina to Texas, but mainly in Florida

Flavor: Sweet

Texture: Firm, lobster-like

Physical Description
Rock shrimp look very different from the penaeid shrimp (white, pink, and brown shrimp in the same region). While rock shrimp are similar in general size and shape, they can be easily distinguished by their thick, rigid, stony shell. Their bodies are off-white to pinkish in color, with the dorsal (back) surface darker and blotched or barred with lighter shades. Their legs are red to reddish-purple and barred with white. The abdomen has deep transverse grooves and numerous nodules. Short hairs cover their body and appendages. Their eyes are large and deeply pigmented.

Location & Habitat
Rock shrimp are found from Norfolk, Virginia, south through the Gulf of Mexico to Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. They mainly live on sand bottoms in water 80 to 215 feet deep, although they’ve been found in depths of 600 feet. Rock shrimp are active at night and burrow in the sand during the daytime. Larval rock shrimp grow and develop in coastal estuaries and travel back to offshore areas as they mature.

Biology
The rock shrimp’s growth and development depends on factors such as season, water temperature, population density, size, and sex. For example, they grow faster in the summer and females grow slightly faster than males. In general, juveniles grow up to 1/10 inch per month and adults grow about 1/50 inch per month. They can grow up to 6 inches in length, but most rock shrimp found in shallow waters are less than 2 inches long. Rock shrimp, like most shrimp species, are highly productive. Females are able to reproduce when they reach about ½ to 1 inch or larger in length; males mature when they reach about ½ inch long. Rock shrimp spawn year-round in offshore waters; spawning peaks between November and January. Individual females can spawn three or more times in one season. Males and females mate, and the eggs are fertilized when the female simultaneously releases egg and sperm. Eggs hatch within 24 hours. Rock shrimp have a short life span, between 20 and 22 months.

Source: Eat Alabama Wild Seafood

ROYAL RED SHRIMP

Royal Red Shrimp

Royal Reds are perhaps the softest and most delicate of all U.S. native shrimp species. This vibrant red shrimp never sees the light of day, preferring the cold dark depths out at the edge where the gently sloping bottom of the Gulf drops abruptly off the continental shelf. Depths from 1,200 to over a half mile down are the home to this sweetest of all shrimp. Normally they are produced from early March through June and range from the Desoto Canyon off of Pensacola all the way along the shelf’s edge to the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Keys.Scientific name: Pleoticus Robustus

Flavor: Buttery, sweet, rich, almost lobster-like

Texture: Soft, delicate

Location & Habitat
Royal Red Shrimp are now the newest members of the Florida Shrimp family. They are found primarily in the cold, deep waters off the coast of St. Augustine and the Dry Tortugas in the Florida Straits. They prefer a sandy mud or silt ocean bottom, at depths of 820-1550 feet, where the water temperature is a cool 45-55 degrees Fahrenheit. One interesting fact is that this species of shrimp can be harvested during the day or night, because of the ultra deep-water habitat it lives in.

Sources: eatgulfseafood.com, msseafood.com, fishwatch.gov, woodsfisheries.com, floridasfinest.com, www.ncagr.gov, Eat Alabama Wild Seafood

SHRIMP PRODUCT FORMS

Shrimp are divided into two basic types: raw and cooked. It can then be further divided into fresh and frozen. Within these broad categories, almost all shrimp sold in the U.S. market are sold as head-off tails, and the bulk of that are sold frozen. Primary product forms for frozen shrimp are:Green Headless. The standard market form. Includes the six tail segments, with vein, shell and tail fin. “Green” does not refer to shell color but to the uncooked, raw state of the shrimp. Also called “shell-on” or “headless.”

Peeled. Green headless shrimp without the shell.

PUD. Peeled, undeveined, tail fin on or off; raw or cooked. The vein, running the length of the tail, is the intestine, also called the sand vein.

Tail-on Round. Undeveined shrimp with tail fin on.

P&D. Peeled, deveined, tail fin on or off; raw or cooked. Another name for IQF P&D shrimp is PDI (peeled, deveined, individually frozen).

Easy Peel. Headless, split down the middle.

Cleaned. Shrimp that is peeled and washed, a process that removes some or all of the vein but is not thorough enough to warrant the P&D label.

Shell-on Cooked. Cooked tail, with vein, shell and tail fin.

Split, Butterfly, Fantail. Tail-on shrimp that are cut deeply when being deveined.

Pieces. Shrimp with fewer than four or five whole segments, for small shrimp and large shrimp, respectively (all shrimp have six segments). Often graded as small, medium and large, though no standards exist.

FROZEN SHRIMP PACKS

Blocks. Blocks offer easy storage and the versatility afforded by a basic raw product. But separating out a portion of the block can be a challenge, and labor is required to peel and devein the shrimp. Shrimp blocks come in one of two styles:

  • Random. (Also “jumble” or “shovel” pack.) These may have some order, but shrimp are not evenly glazed.
  • Layerpack. (Also “finger pack.”) Meticulously hand-packed shrimp, frozen in a neat pattern and double-glazed.

IQF. PUD and P&D shrimp are most often individually quick-frozen. IQF (Individually Quick-Frozen) packs may be less convenient than blocks to store, but they offer savings in labor and allow the user to remove the quantity needed and return the unused portion to the freezer. IQF means the product was frozen in a matter of minutes or hours, not days.

  • Glaze is necessary to properly freeze shrimp. Both shrimp blocks and IQF shrimp are glazed with a protective ice coating to prevent dehydration.
  • Blocks are packed in polyethylene wraps inside cartons, which are then filled with water inside the polyethylene film, so the block is completely encased in water before it is frozen.
  • IQF shrimp are first frozen, then passed through a drip or spray of water to coat each piece, then re-frozen. This may be done several times to build up sufficient protection.

THE SHRIMP COUNT

Because shrimp are so small, they are sold by a count (number) per pound rather than by individual weight. This is expressed as a range. For example, a 16/20 count means shrimp of such a size that it would take from 16 to 20 of them to make up a pound. The smaller the count, the larger the shrimp.Because of the differentials between one grade and the next are often substantial, getting the correct grade is crucial. Counts within a given range should be as uniform in size as possible. The ideal is shrimp that are all exactly the same size.Counts are occasionally expressed in names rather than numbers, such as “colossal,” “jumbos,” and “extra large.” Since these appellations are not universally defined and regulated, the numbers system works bests. For example, a medium large shrimp may look like a jumbo if it’s next to a 1/10 or a 1/20.Below is a chart that explains descriptive names and count sizes, but buyers should use descriptive terms with care. It’s always best to buy shrimp by count sizes. It’s important to also note that other count sizes might be available.

Descriptive Size Name Green headless Peeled Cooked
Extra Colossal Under 10 Under 15 16/20
Colossal Under 15 16/20 21/25
Extra jumbo 16/20 21/25 26/30
Jumbo 21/25 26/30 31/35
Extra large 26/30 31/35 36/40
Large 31/40 36/45 41/50
Medium large 36/40 41/45 46/50
Medium 41/50 46/55 51/60
Small 51/60 56/65 61/70
Extra small 61/70 66/75 71/80
Tiny Over 70

As a rule, shrimp lose one size count when peeled, another when cooked. Consistency of size within a specific count range is important, as poor uniformity indicates a mixing of sizes, affecting count and appearance.

To determine the uniformity ratio (UR) of a pack, visually select and weigh not more than 10 percent (by number) of the largest and 10 percent of the smallest shrimp. Calculate UR by dividing the total weight of the largest by the total weight of the smallest. The lower the ratio, the more uniform the count. If all shrimp are the same size, UR will be 1.0.

Another good rule is that 2 pounds of shrimp in their shells will yield about 1 1/4 pounds when peeled. Allow about 3/4 pound headless shrimp in the shell per person; if the shrimp are shelled, figure about 1/3 to 1/2 pound per person.

Shrimp Anatomy

Sources:
US Foods Seafood Handbook – www.usfoods.com
North Carolina Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services – www.ncagr.gov