June 22, 2015
Culinary arts students should know where their shrimp comes from.

Culinary arts students should know where their shrimp comes from.

According to the Texas Shrimp Association, although Americans eat more shrimp than any other seafood, most people don’t know where the shrimp they’re eating comes from. The Texas Shrimp Association estimates that 85 to 90 percent of shrimp is imported. As an Austin culinary arts student, you need to remember that knowing where your food comes from is important. Austin is close to the Gulf of Mexico, so getting fresh, locally sourced shrimp shouldn’t be a problem.

Why sourcing locally is good for the chef
In a series of interviews conducted by the Austin Eater, local chefs weighed in on why they source things locally. The chefs interviewed listed reasons ranging from community involvement and keeping money circulating locally to ethical reasons and knowing how the meat and ingredients they use in their dishes are treated. In addition to all of the reasons the chefs listed, also consider the consumer. Most consumers want to know where their food is coming from. The growing trend of locally sourced food isn’t something that only chefs care about, and when the consumer wants something, a good chef will respond.

Why sourcing locally is good for the local economy
Shopping locally helps local businesses thrive and helps promote strong communities. Because so much shrimp is imported, local Texas shrimp suppliers have a lot of competition, especially if they are selling wild-caught shrimp. According to The Austin Chronicle, around half of all imported shrimp comes from aquafarms. Shrimp that comes from aquafarms is very inexpensive compared to wild-caught shrimp. The companies that sell locally sourced, wild-caught shrimp have to compete with the low prices and the sheer volume of shrimp coming from overseas. Most chefs and suppliers will attest to the superiority of wild-caught shrimp, which allows local, wild-caught shrimp providers to differentiate themselves from the competition because of their superior product. When wild-caught, locally sourced shrimp is purchased, it helps boost the Texas Gulf shrimping industry, which in turn helps the entire local economy.

Why sourcing locally is good for the environment
The shrimping industry used to get a bad rap because of baycatch, which is the term the industry uses for unwanted things caught in fishing nets. Sometimes endangered species of sea turtles would wind up in fishermen’s nets as part of that baycatch. While this used to be a major problem in the U.S., according to a study conducted by Ecological Research Associates, Inc., things have changed. Fishermen have implemented fishery improvement projects that reduce the amount of baycatch and utilize turtle excluder devices that will allow turtles to escape if caught in a fishing net.