According to the WWF, Americans eat roughly 4 pounds of shrimp per capita per year. Four pounds doesn’t sound like a lot. I can lift four pounds with one hand easily without breaking a sweat. But what does 4 pounds of shrimp per person in the US look like? Let’s do a little paper napkin math, shall we?
When I checked the US census population clock this morning, the population was 315,996,507 people. Let’s use that number, even though there is a new person added every 15 seconds to the American population.
So, this morning, if everyone in the country (yes, even the babies and people who don’t eat shrimp- we are talking averages here) ate their share of shrimp for the year, we would be consuming 1,263,986,028 pounds of shrimp, or 631,993 tons per year. I’d be willing to guess that people on the Gulf Coast eat a large part of that every year.
The shrimp you buy at the supermarket is categorized by size. You’ll see the tiny ones called 61/70, the large called 31/35 and the extra large called 26/30, for example. These are the numbers of shrimp found per pound (the large the shrimp, the less shrimp you get per pound).
If we were to continue our napkin math and just assume everyone in the country was eating size 31/35 sized shrimp, that would mean that everyone alive this morning (yes, even the babies…) will eat at least 39,183,566,868 shrimp this year. That’s a lot of shrimp cocktail.
Ok, apparently the recommended amount of shrimp for a dinner party is 1 pound of raw shrimp per person… These numbers would assume that everyone attended 4 dinner parties a year (babies like parties, too).
With numbers like these, it’s no surprise that we are having trouble keeping up with the demand. That’s why 90% of the shrimp that we eat is imported, usually from farms in Asia. Farmed shrimp was a 10.6 billion industry in 2005, and production is growing at an approximate rate of 10% per year—one of the highest growth rates in aquaculture. There are some American farms working hard to produce a local, fresher product without the use of chemicals, like RDM Aquaculture in Indiana, but they need to bump up production if they want each American to get their 4 pounds.