Over at Slog, Brendan has been covering the farmed shrimp slavery scandal. The latest revelation? This statement from British supermarket giant Tesco: “Every retailer that sources farmed prawns from Thailand must now consider it likely that slavery exists in its supply chain.”
But me, I buy shrimp totally guilt free. Because I haven’t purchased farmed shrimp in years. In fact, with few exceptions (for example, locally farmed shellfish), I won’t knowingly eat farm-raised seafood at all.
What I learned from my extensive coverage of the melamine-spiked pet food scandal back in 2007 turned me off of farm-raised seafood for good. As I explained during the midst of the crisis, 81 percent of America’s seafood is imported, and about 40-percent of that is farmed, largely in China, which accounts for about 70-percent of global aquaculture production. And yet, despite the lack of adequate regulatory controls abroad, the US inspects less than 1 percent of imported food.
Environmental and human rights issues aside, much of the world’s farmed seafood is raised in squalid and unsanitary conditions. And there is a long and documented history of adulterated fish feed. I’m just not convinced that it’s safe.
So given the choice, I try to eat only wild seafood, preferably from the reasonably well-regulated (and thus hopefully sustainable) Alaska fishery. That means I don’t eat shrimp nearly as often as I used to back when I purchased the cheap imported farm-raised stuff at the local Asian market. Because I can’t afford to.
But at least when I do purchase shrimp, I don’t have to worry about who I’m hurting, not the least of whom, myself.