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February 26, 2009

Arizona shrimp farms and other scary things

ShrimpFarmMap.bmpOwl Meat has brought us some excellent farm-raised food for thought in today's Funtastic Thursday guest post. In fact, even his throw-away line would be worth a separate post: "Has tilapia become the merlot of the fish world?"

Here's the Owl man. EL

Arizona Shrimp Farms
Let this settle into your skull bucket for a moment ... Arizona shrimp farms.  Now sit back and relish the rare triple oxymoron.  Can I think of others?  Just Holy Roman Empire. Maybe that example isn't analogous since shrimp farms do exist in Arizona, whereas the other existed but was neither holy, Roman, nor an empire.  I used to live in southern Arizona, where these unholy sites exist, but I don't remember any shrimp on the beaches there. ...

From the University of Arizona site:  "There are currently four inland shrimp farms operating in Arizona. Each of these farms is growing the Mexican white shrimp Litopenaeus vannamei in brackish groundwater. The farms are also incorporating various levels of water reuse, growing additional crops of tilapia, date palms, olive trees or field crops."
Back it up, Jebediah.  Tilapia?  As I'm struggling to wrap my brain around the idea that I might be unknowingly eating Arizona shrimp, I am gut-punched with the notion of Yuma tilapia.   Are we in the Matrix?  
Here is a link to the USDA's USMSFP (U.S. Marine Shrimp Farming Program).  Is there a non-marine shrimp program?  Can the word "marine" be used to describe man-made shrimp farms in the desert? 
I had no idea that shrimp could be farm-raised.  In 2006 the United States produced 4,000 tons of farm-raised shrimp.  In recent years China has zoomed to the top to be the world's largest producer with 1.2 million tons in 2006.  That's enough shrimp for about 77 trillion spring rolls.
The Shrimp-Olive Program sounds like a delicious evening of antipasto-inspired music.  In fact it is a program for "using plants as a filtration system for aquaculture effluents."  Weird?  Interesting?  Disgusting?  Clever? 
There are shrimp farms in other states including landlocked Arkansas.  Brave New Shrimp™ produces "A gourmet product grown utilizing the best, most leading edge, 'natural' production practices." 

Note to Mr. Brave:  Don't put "natural" in quotes.  I'm no marketing genius, but do you really want to taunt your market with an already slightly scary product?  Never heard of Arkansas farm-raised shrimp?  I dare you to eat some.  Are you brave enough?  Not to mention the clear reference to Aldous Huxley's dystopian novel Brave New World, which takes place in a future where human beings are mass-produced like, uh, farm-raised shrimp.
A key part of their marketing plan is "the natural-food angle." A spokesman said, "We are not using any growth hormones, any antibiotics or any preservatives on our shrimp, and we are trying to grow something that’s a very healthy product."  It never occurred to me that any of those things would ever be in seafood.  China + chemicals + shrimp?  That's easy math.  Now I'm terrified.
Brave New Restaurant in Little Rock is run by partner Peter Brave and supposedly features Brave New Shrimp and possibly braver new customers.  Conspicuously absent from the menu?  Brave New Shrimp.  Not so brave after all, Bubba?  They do offer tilapia of unknown origin.  Psst ...has tilapia become the merlot of the fish world?
I stopped eating shrimp a number of years ago for no particular reason.  I just stopped loving them.  Now I have a 1.2 million tons of reasons.  Brave new world?  Not for me.  For the rest of you – enjoy your shrimpy future ... if you dare.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:22 AM | | Comments (57)


Marvesta shrimp farms is an eastern shore company that raises shrimp "organically" in sustainable, environmentally friendly tanks just outside of Easton, MD. I had their shrimp at Woodberry Kitchen, and oh goodness, they are divine!! a must try !!!

Another ploy by the seafood consortium to RULE THE WORLD!

Yes, all of that sounds awfully scary! Turns out we have our own shrimp farm right here in Maryland, which sounds perhaps somewhat less scary, according to the following article. (Less scary for humans, perhaps, but not for the shrimp - the farmers 'fess up to losing about 150,000 baby shrimp until they figured out how to get things running properly.)

I'm glad that the shrimp around here comes from the Gulf, not some farm.

At least I hope it comes from the Gulf!

I heard something a few years ago about Asian shrimp taking over U.S. markets, being "dumped" on the market at below market prices. When was the last time you asked where your shrimp came from? Never? I've seen people ask if salmon was farm-raised or wild and the server clearly knowing nohting but giving them the answer they wanted.

A cab driver just asked me what I thought of the stimulus package. I was told there would be no quizzes in cabs today.

The map cracks me up.

you eat big spring rolls

The whole inland aquaculture method is not really something new. In places such as Israel, they use it due to their lack of natural resources (i.e. water). Actually right near the aquarium there is a lab that is partially funded by Phillips Seafood (go figure) to study growing blue crabs in a closed loop environment.

That is pretty scary!

I know that a lot of the seafood out there is farm raised. I'd rather have wild, but how can we sustain wild populations without the addition of farms? Is the answer to drastically cut seafood consumption?

But Cash Cab is cool.

Shrimp growth hormone.

I realize the owner's name is Brave. Still, in trying to communicate their mission could they have been any more wide of the mark than Brave New Shrimp? Does the Brave New Restaurant have a Soylent Green Salad Bar? Ice-nine root beer floats?

On the road outside the Grnad Canyon, on the end where the Trading Post is, at the Trading Post Restaurant, the had this dinner with Green Head Shrimp. It's been about 10 years, so I can't remember what was so odd about them, but I'm not sure they were real shrimp.

PCB Rob - Cash Cab! LOL! When we were in NYC right before Christmas my kids were on the lookout in hopes that we might encounter Cash Cab.

The map is a little funny. I ran it through to change the half tones to glorious color. Now that I examine it it is a weird design. Very weird. As if they were thinking, what if some South Americans see this? How will they know where the U.S. is?

I mentally put a half an ounce of shrimp in each spring roll. They're small.

I stopped eating shrimp when it appeared that they were all being farmed in Asian countries (Thailand, Vietnam, etc.) and imported here. The economic impact by clearing forests for the farms is bad enough, but yeah, chemicals in farmed shrimp? No thanks. Luckily, I have found my secret place where the sell U-15 wild caught Texas gulf shrimp for $9.99 a pound. One step down from that size sells for a dollar less. I would be willing to try the Maryland farm-raised shrimp, though. I remember reading articles about that a year or so ago.

As for your crab meat, there was a good article in The Urbanite a few months back. Apparently, most of that is also from Asia.§ionID=4&articleID=1085

Sadly there is no cash cab in Baltimore. It would be fun. Macro-econ cab is way less fun.

I don't mind having farmed seafood especially if it contains less garbage than the fish in the bay have. I've had lots of farmed Rock and it is very good, as is the farmed catfish I've had. If a fish/seafood population can be farmed while the wild population is left alone to re-populate, I'm all in favor of it.

Cash Cab is totally cool! Agree with you Fl Rob. Owl, you shoulda played!

Owlie, in a word, YES, tilapia is the merlot (or chardonnay) of the fish world. I've seen preparations on restaurant menus that I wouldn't DREAM of doing to tilapia.

"Brackish groundwater"? Urg!! Dangit, I LOVE shrimp--or used to--but this has put me right off it. Sigh....

At Wegman's the shrimp are sorted by origin. The signs also indicate which were previously frozen. I always get the wild caught, previously frozen gulf shrimp. I think all tiger shrimp come from the far east.

I am pretty sure they did an episode of Dirty Jobs at a tilapia farm in the southwestern desert somewhere.

Macro-econ cab quickly turned into Iraq War remorse cab. Nobody wins that game. And the cab driver doesn't really want to hear this sentence, "When I worked for the Joint Economic Committee of Congress....", so I shrugged and agreed with whatever he said.

He did tell me about a locksmith across from the hair cutting place that made some excellent key copies. So I guess I did win. Crappy Baltimore Cash Cab.

The Red Light Challenge was guess what country the driver was from based upon the music. Nigeria. i win that one all the time. It all sounds like King Sunny Ade (not to be confused with King Sunny Delight). My greatest Crap Cab win was guessing Sudan just from the music. Sounded like an Egyptian oud but the music was more mid-Africa. Score! God, my life sucks. Senegal was a good score too.

Can't find my copy of My Life in the Bush of Ghosts. Why do people return crappy books but not the good ones. I guess the Byrne/Eno album will have to do:

Out Jezebel, out.

That's why Chef Emeril used to go on about making sure you were buying "Wild Caught" shrimp, to keep the U.S. Gulf Coast fisherfolk in business. As Owlie mentioned, the odds are about 300,000 to1 that your "Farm Raised" shrimp were not brought onshore by American shrimp boats, but raised in China.

Harken HarkaLark Laura Lee, Soylent Green makes for terrible salad, you know why? It's people.

Owl, you certainly do have the adventures.

She Who... I want to back to NYC just to see if I can catch the Cash Cab. Most of those questions are pretty easy.

That would be weird if I am eating shrimp at a Gulf-front (or on Grand Lagoon, real nearby) restaurant and the shrimp is from Asia or a farm. Heck, most days you can see the shrimp trawlers out in the Gulf, bringing in their catch. Always makes me think of the "Jenny".

I used to have a friend who was faux-sher, faux kosher, i.e., she didn't eat any non-kosher foods as long as there was shrimp around. The only time I ever went to Haussner's I had to have the hqasenpfeffer. Eww, that's not kosher she said licking cocktail sauce off her shrimpy digits (maybe that didn't happen but whatever). Why hasenpfeffer? Because of Bugs Bunny. Yes I am emotionally eight years old.

Shrimp cocktail is a terrible way to eat shrimp. You just never know how long it's been sitting in the fridge. That being said, a good one is fantastic. Mc & Schmicks has a giant prawn cocktail that is fresh and delicious. The shrimp are so big you can cut them up like steak.

Clearly this is better than Facebook, since I'm going for free therapy right now.

I just heard someone on TV say bacon-wrapped shrimp. Oh yeah.

So every time my gal pal attacked a shrimp cocktail like a crack-monkey I started to have weird scary feelings about them. Then I realized that the classic presentation of five shrimp in a glass of ice and cocktail sauce with the tails sticking out of the glass looked like a lady's hand reaching up from a bloody grave – but in a good way. I'm not anti-shrimp. they're just a little ordinary-special for me now when once they were special.

Why do they leave the tails on when they put them in pasta dishes?

My understanding of farm-raised fish is that they create a mesh pen at some point in the river often near the sea (for salmon) and then raise the fish is veal-like crowded conditions on artificial food pellets. Often the intense concentration of effluent and chemical from the food ruin the ecosystem downstream.

It's like I can't stop typing. You would think that I would have run out of things to say by this point, given the incredibly dull life I lead.

In computer programming there is a basic saying -– GIGO or garbage in, garbage out. Don't you think that must be true in raising food too?

Given the reckless disregard for human life that the Chinese have shown in recent years with the lead paint toys and poison infant formula, I would sort of like to know where shrimp comes from. I predict this will be an issue some day.

I thought the selling point of tilapia (because it isn't the flavor) was that it was a deep water fish caught near a mineral rich shelf near New Zealand and is thus exotic and healthful. Little Rock Pond Fish just doesn't sound the same.

Wouldn't the tilapia EAT the baby shrimp?

Can't you tell wild salmon because it has a deeper color due to eating .... shrimp?

Do you think they dye farm salmon with red dye? I think they do.

Flamingos are pink because of eating ... shrimp.
Because the salmon are raised in very unnatural, crowded pens, diseases are a big problem, resulting in antibiotics being added to the fish feed. Additionally, farms have used anti-parasitic drugs to kill the sea lice that overpopulate and attach themselves to the salmon in the pens. There are probably any number of chemicals and drugs in farmed salmon, and not listed on the package, that are cause for more concern than the colorant.
... Specifically, salmon farming is absolutely disastrous to local fish populations and local environments into which salmon fish farms are placed.

I'll bet that's true of farmed rockfish too.

Owl, it says right on the packages of farm-raised salmon that coloring has been added to make it look good. I never buy the stuff.

But your "garbage in garbage out" comment was right on the money--true on so many levels.

As consumers of the earths resources, we just can't win for losing!

BTW, I honestly do try to make an effort to not eat overfished species which sadly include orange roughy and Chilean sea bass.

As consumers of the earths resources, we just can't win for losing!

Either there are too many people or we are too big. I think a program to encourage toddlers to smoke would be very helpful, cigars preferably.

I decided recently to buy only wild-caught seafood. If I can get it fresh at Faidley's (Lexington Market), fine; if not, I'll buy it frozen at Trader Joe's. I just don't want to ingest the antibiotics and coloring and junk that's in supermarket fish. By the by, TJ's has the best prices and greatest variety of seafood that I've seen in years.

Slop fed pigs are tasty pigs.

Dottie, I'm with you. I always have one or two packages of frozen fish from TJ in my freezer. The price is generally about half of what I would pay for the same thing fresh at Wegman's.

If farmed fish need antibiotics to survive,doesn't that mean that they are raised in really unhealthy environments so polluted and/or saturated witrh deadly bacteria that life is a challenge? Yummo.

I bought frozen fish at TJ's, but found it to be mighty unpleasant to eat. I think the freezing ruins it.

All this discussion about what might be in the fish in the supermarket makes me want to never buy it.

The frozen orange roughy I sometimes get says its wild-caught. But is it?

I usually get the frozen orange roughy concentrate

Point to RayRay.

Orange roughy implies that there are other colors of whatever fish a roughy is. Anyone ever had any yellow roughy or green roughy? Fresh, that is. Not like the green piece of something I found at the back of my refrigerator a few weeks ago. Or, as the magnet my DW got me says "If it walks out of the refrigerator, let it go."

Oh. I understood the implication to be that other fish (a species variation, perhaps) are orange smoothies.

My guess is that they call it orange roughy to give it some kind of characteristic that might entice people to buy it.

Something called simply "roughy" wouldn't catch on, maybe?

Eve, if you put an orange roughy into a blender, wouldn't that be an orange roughy smoothie?

Ew, Fl Rob - gross memories of The Bassomatic from the old Saturday Night Live. Remember that?

The orange roughy, red roughy, or deep sea perch, Hoplostethus atlanticus, is a relatively large deep-sea fish belonging to the slimehead family (Trachichthyidae). "

Uh, yeah, can I get two pounds of flounder and how is the slimehead today?

So there is red roughy too.

Slimefish ... it's what's for dinner.

Joyce, Yes! I remember Dan Aykroyd and the Bassomatic. Classic SNL stuff.

Seriously, slimefish? No wonder they made up a different name.

Isn't that what they did for mahi mahi, use the Hawaiian term for dolphin so people wouldn't think Flipper was on the menu?

I know there are two different kinds, the kind that people eat are caught a lot down here.

wiki wiki...
The mahi-mahi (in Hawaiian)[1] (Coryphaena hippurus) also known as dolphin-fish or dorado, calitos, maverikos, or lampuki (in Maltese) are surface-dwelling ray-finned fish found in off-shore temperate, tropical and subtropical waters worldwide. They are one of only two members of the Coryphaenidae family, the other being the Pompano dolphinfish.

Isn't it funny how so any fish have dfferent names in different parts of the country? I pompano is popular in Florida, I think I ate dorado in Panama as part of the $1 lunch special, and mahi-mahi elsewhere. I remember the first time I heard "dolphin (fish)" on a menu. Terrible name.

What's the worst name for food that you actually eat? I can't think of any right now. Blowfish?

I will say that I love to say "scungilli".
As in, "Can I get that with a side of scungilli?" Ah, that never gets old and nobody but me thinks it's funny, Scungilli isn't very euphonious. It sounds a bit like an infectious rash.

Random update on fish farms. I read that they raise Atlantic salmon on fish farms in the Pacific northwest. Why? Who knows. There "farms" are just netted areas in rivers. So waddaya know, some Atlantic fishies got loo9se and are now tyaking over the habitats of the Pacific salmon that they tried so hard to preserve.

Doesn't it sound scary when they talk about putting Asian oysters in the Chesapeake? Kudzu.

"What's the worst name for food that you actually eat? " Pu pu platter comes to mind.

Tilapia is the Asiago of fishes.

Merlot is the Steve Gutenberg of red wines.

A few years ago I made the drive in Louisiana from Houma to Grand Isle. The roads run on narrow strips of land with docks to either side that are filled with shrimp boats. It is very easy to see just what the shrimp industry means to these towns.

I've been to towns that have a heavy seafood presence, like Crisfield, but they pale in comparison to what I saw on that drive.

I usually consider myself a believer in free trade, and I know that the world's demand for protein necessitates aquaculture; however, when you visit south Louisiana, you can't help but want to support American wild caught shrimp. It probably doesn't hurt either that fresh, wild caught shrimp tastes a lot better than the farm raised variety whether it be from China or Arizona.

You never hear about how shrimps of different varieties and locations taste different. I suppose thety do, but I have no idea. Anny thoughts?

The grocery store is giving away a free quarter-pound of Boar' Head asiago cheese this week if you buy a pound or more of BH meats/cheeses.

First time I've had asiago cheese, its not bad. A bit more flavorful than I imagined.

"giving away a free..."

oops, sorry for the pleonasm.

Asiago is the Hugh Jackman of cheeses. Jackman!!!

RoCK, for years I've wanted to do the drive out to Grand Isle, but have never managed to have the time when I was in the area.

I live in Cut Off Louisiana, just above Grand Isle. All i have to say is that these Chinese farm raised shrimp have put a major dent in the lives of your hard working men and women of your country. Please ask for Louisiana shrimp or at least shrimp that came out of the Gulf.

The shrimp Farm in Hurlock Md. is called Marvesta Shrimp Farms. They are clean, organic and delicious, and the farm is eco-friendly- these shrimp live in a spa basically! They will be featured on the Emeril Green show on Planet Green channel sometime in Jan. They were just on America's Heartland on thr RFD channel a few weeks ago. You can see it online at season 5 episode513 Interesting

That's good to hear. I''ve heard that a lot of salmon farming on river outlets trashes the ecosystem. Shrimp spa? Sounds nice.

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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