Shrimp are marine crustaceans that can be founds on river beds and ocean floors in nearly every environment around the world. There are more than 2,000 different species of shrimp...some so small that you can't even see them! What all these types of shrimp have in common though is that they are invertebrates, which means that they don't have a backbone. Instead they have a hard exoskeleton, which is their shell. Have you ever peeled your own shrimp? We went to a place once where they poured a big bucket of shrimp, sausages, corn on the cob, and boiled potatoes on a paper laden table and we ate with our hands. It was fun!
Shrimp are interesting critters. Like fish, shrimp primarily travel, breed, and eat in schools so where you will find one shrimp you will probably find many. They are omnivorous animals which means they eat plant and animal species. They mainly feed on algae, plant particles, tiny fish, and plankton in the water...and they in turn are dined on by fish, crustaceans such as crabs, sea urchins, starfish, seabirds like puffins, whales, dolphins, sharks and humans. Female shrimp can lay up to a million eggs at once that only take a couple of weeks to hatch...so as you can guess there are a lot of shrimp swimming in our waters.
Shrimp is generally low in mercury which is a good thing, especially for kids. It is low in saturated fat, a good source of niacin, iron, phosphorus and zinc, and a very good source of protein, vitamin B12 and selenium.
Unfortunatly, most shrimp are acquired through environmentally unsound methods so if you are going to eat shrimp it is important to read labels and ask questions. In the U.S., United States Farmed and Wild Shrimp are considered the best choice according to Environmental Defense Fund's (EDF) three levels of seafood: eco-best, eco-ok, and eco-worst list. Tiny cold-water shrimp varieties such as wild-caught bay shrimp, cocktail shrimp, northern shrimp, and pink shrimp typically come from Oregon or the Northeast and are another good option. Then there are wild-caught spot prawns. They use trap-catching instead of trawling with these guys. It is less invasive, but also less productive, which makes them are a bit pricer.
According to the Food Allergy and Anaphylaxis Network, nearly 2.3 percent of Americans are allergic to shellfish, including shrimp. So for those of you that have to avoid them, there are many mock shrimp dishes available to try.