Differences in Wild & Farm-Raised Shrimp

Shrimp is one of the most commonly used seafoods for cooking in a variety of dishes, including pasta and soups. Shrimp can be wild caught or farm raised, and in some cases, both options are available in grocery stores, supermarkets and farmer’s markets. Shrimp is considered a healthy alternative for those looking for a lower calorie or cholesterol meat alternative.

Methods of Raising

Shrimp can be either wild or farmed and the benefits vary between each option.

Farm raised shrimp are actually raised on land. In some cases, the shrimp are raised in large tanks, that have irrigation systems to provide fresh, clean water to the shrimp. In other cases, shrimp ponds are built for the sole purpose of producing farmed shrimp. In turn, wild shrimp live in the ocean. Depending on the variety of wild shrimp, they can live deep in the ocean, or in shallower parts, such as bays and lagoons.


Farm raised shrimp are harvested often by hand or mechanical nets that catch shrimp after they have reached a certain size. The holes in the nets will allow smaller shrimp to escape the net, preventing excessive by-catch. The lack of by-catch in farmed shrimp is one of the benefits of farmed shrimp. In the case of wild shrimp, there is often by-catch from different species of animals, including smaller fish and other crustaceans.

Environmental Impact

The environmental impact of farmed shrimp depends greatly on where the farmed shrimp originates from. In many parts of Asia, mangrove’s have been appropriated to be used as shrimp farms. This has created dramatic shifts in terms of the ecology of many of the regions. Without the protective barrier of the mangrove trees, regions have become more susceptible to hurricanes and tsunamis. As well, the higher salt content of the shrimp farms has affected the quality of nearby waterways.

Wild shrimp creates an environmental impact on the regional ecology by the amount of by-catch that is a result of ocean trawling. Much of the by-catch of wild shrimp harvesting is thrown back into the ocean, but the animals may be severely damaged or dead by the time they are returned to sea.

Health Concerns

Farm raised shrimp are fed a variety of fabricated shellfish foods. These foods are designed to provide the right balance of nutrients, although many of them may be chemically based or derived. In turn, wild shrimp feast on a variety of natural foods, such as algae. However, these items may contain pollutants that have found their way into the water systems. For example, areas where there is a high industrial economy may have more pollutants in the waters.

About the Author

Lang Tun has been a professional writer since 2001. She has written on landscaping and the environment for the BBC and is currently at the University of Toronto, finishing a doctorate in international relations. She also holds degrees in English from Wilfrid Laurier University (film and literature studies) and the University of Toronto (British and Canadian literature).