Although Price Chopper offers both farm-raised and wild-caught shrimp throughout its 110 stores, 95% of the chain's shoppers buy farm-raised -- a preference that Richard Carwowski, seafood specialist for the chain, attributed to the product's consistency, as well as the variety of ways it is prepared by seafood producers.
"The temperature at shrimp farms is suitable for growing quality shrimp, and a controlled environment means healthier shrimp," Carwowski said. "Farm-raised shrimp is also more consistent in size and flavor and comes in a wide variety such as shell-on, raw, cooked, shell-off, cleaned and easy peel."
In comparison, wild-caught shrimp is more expensive due to limited availability, seasonality and environmental changes. The quality of the catch and sizes of each shrimp can vary, and problems such as melanosis, or black spotting, are more common in wild-caught shrimp because boats can be out to sea as long as 30 days at a time.
"The varieties of wild-caught are typically limited to shell-on and shell-off and the taste can vary depending on the waters the shrimp were living in and the food they were feeding on," he said.
Despite these limitations, Carwowski predicts that three species in particular will eventually emerge as high-end, gourmet shrimp, creating a niche market for shrimpers.
The first species, Key West pink shrimp, is tender and sweet due to the sandy ocean floor where they live while brown shrimp is firm and slightly bland with a faint iodine taste. A third species, Pandalus borealis, or pink salad shrimp, is very sweet and delicate with more flavor than warm-water shrimp, but because of their small size, the finished, cleaned count is 100+ per pound.
"These species will be recognized as specialty shrimp that only the best seafood markets in the country will carry," Carwowski said.