Shrimp cocktail … shrimp scampi … shrimp and tips … our mouths water as we think of shrimp meals we might order or serve at home. Shrimp are wonderfully low-calorie packages of taste, protein and minerals, with very little fat and carbohydrate. In the US, we buy three times as much shrimp as we did thirty-five years ago. It is the most popular seafood we consume. But what else besides beneficial proteins and minerals might be in the shrimp we buy?
This question and the answers to it are part of what prompted Jen Reis and her husband, Jason, to grow Pacific white shrimp on their farm in Lime Springs, Iowa. They couldn’t find shrimp in local supermarkets that weren’t imported. They were aware of reasons to refrain from purchasing imported seafood, like antibiotic and chemical residues. So, after researching shrimp production and visiting some inland shrimp producers in the Midwest, they decided to invest in their own farmstead shrimp production facility.
Now, nearly two years into production, Jen says they have learned a lot and are supplying shrimp on ice to restaurants, the Decorah (Iowa) Food Coop and individual customers. She also brings shrimp to sell at their nearby Decorah Farmers Market and, every month or so, to the Cameron Park Farmers Market in La Crosse.
The USA imports 1.3 billion pounds of shrimp these days (2016), some 85 to 90% of its needs. Most of the shrimp is farmed in southeast Asia, Indonesia and India; Ecuador is another major producer. Problems arise because, even though the U.S. makes it illegal to import shrimp raised with antibiotics and other chemicals added to shrimp ponds (to limit disease), it is apparent that some shrimp for sale in the US does test positive for antibiotic residue and certain chemicals and bacteria when samples are pulled from grocer’s shelves. The issue isn’t necessarily with the grocer, but seems to stem from grossly inadequate inspection and testing of shipments received at the borders, and inaccurate labeling of shrimp products at packaging.(tncms-asset)4821d9ea-a1a1-11e7-8161-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
Jen does most of the work and management at Windy Rock Shrimp. She finds the job gives her the flexibility she needs as a farm wife and mom. She feels good about being able to provide her customers with a shrimp raise din clean tanks without antibiotics or other chemicals to control disease — a healthier option than imported shrimp. And, Jen says, she feels some reward as she nurtures the growth of tiny baby shrimp (called PLs) from the size of a human eyelash to close to an ounce in weight at harvest.
Shrimp tanks at Windy Rock Shrimp are indoors — long and narrow, up to 8 feet wide and 27 feet long. Jen checks several water parameters every day, and adds water to the tanks to compensate for evaporation. Water temp is maintained at 84˚F, and a BioFloc system is used to keep the water clean. BioFloc is a combination of algae, microscopic zooplankton and bacteria; these living organisms utilize the nitrogen excreted into the water by the shrimp, and in turn serve as one of the food sources for the shrimp. The shrimp, which eat 24/7, are also fed fishmeal/soymeal protein pellets, automatically dispensed in to the tanks every twenty minutes. They grow to mature size in about four months.
To harvest shrimp, Jen nets her catch and turns it into a pail of ice water; the cold shock is enough to halt the shrimps’ vital processes. Most “farmed” shrimp don’t receive pelleted feed several hours ahead of harvest; this way, their veins (digestive tracts) are fairly empty for processing.(tncms-asset)4791dcbe-a1a1-11e7-9d46-00163ec2aa77(/tncms-asset)
Jen and freshly harvested Windy Rock shrimp will be at the Cameron Park Market on Friday, Sept. 29. She promises shrimp with exceptional taste, and with no antibiotics or other chemicals known to be detrimental to our ecosystem or our health. Locally grown shrimp … go figure … from Iowa! Really, Jen and Jason may be on the cutting edge of sustainable shrimp production.