Forget cheeseburgers and French fries—the new American meal of choice
is shrimp. American shrimp consumption has increased by more than 300
percent since 1980 [PDF].
Jumbo-sized bags of the crustaceans fill supermarket freezers from New
York City to Norfolk, Arkansas. Shrimp used to only appear on the menus
of upscale restaurants. Now, chains like Red Lobster, Popeye’s, and Long
John Silver’s offer up shrimp dishes for as little as $5.99.
It’s hard to say no to some scampi when crustaceans cost little more
than pocket change. But hidden costs lurk in those discounted bags of
shrimp—in the form of environmental destruction and human trafficking.
Most shrimp consumed in the U.S. doesn’t come from American waters. In fact, about 90 percent of
it originates at farms in Thailand, Vietnam, South America, and China.
Using aquaculture to mass-produce the crustaceans has dropped prices to
all-time lows, but increasing evidence suggests that the savings to
consumers are fueled by human rights abuses and environmental disasters
at shrimp farms.