You want safe shrimp to eat; restaurant owners want a good product to sell; chefs want delicious ingredients from which to create a winning menu; and domestic shrimpers need our business to survive as an industry. It‚
one big circle , and our choices in one area impact others. This circle was made obvious by voices raised in New Orleans at the 2008 Women Chefs and Restaurateurs National Conference.
The attending women were eager to hear from Food & Water Watch, who sent me to get out the word about the health and environmental price of cheap imported shrimp. Chefs and restaurants got tips and important information about how they can improve their shrimp purchasing practices in the panel, “There‚ Something About Shrimp.”
”The only way to make sure that we are getting safe seafood and that we continue to have a domestic industry to supply us with it is to shift demand. “
A lot is at stake for shrimp, and audience members got a well-rounded perspective on the issue from our esteemed panel. Panelists included moderator Leigh Belanger from the Chef‚ Collaborative, local New Orleans shrimper Ray Brandhurst, chef of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Tory McPhail, and Brennan Group operations head Haley Bitterman.
Giant shrimp buffets and growing portion sizes are just two reasons why demand for cheap, imported shrimp has grown immensely (learn more in our report Suspicious Shrimp). The safer, sustainable domestic shrimpers have lost and gone out of business. In addition, natural disasters such as hurricanes have wreaked havoc on shrimpers’ boats and the industry‚ infrastructure.
Ray, an innovative entrepreneur, talked about how the direct-purchasing relationships that he established with local restaurants have kept him afloat. He‚ even begun shipping his shrimp directly to restaurants throughout the country via FedEx.
The overarching message from the panel was clear , eat domestic shrimp. The only way to make sure that we are getting safe seafood and that we continue to have a domestic industry to supply us with it is to shift demand. And we all have a part to play in that , whether were consumers, shrimpers, or chefs. To find out more about industrially produced shrimp and why you may want to avoid it, check out our Suspicious Shrimp report.