Sourcing shrimp to meet those demands can be tricky. In light of investigations of slavery in the international fishing industry, Outpost Natural Foods management started looking at the cooperative’s own sources for whole fresh, frozen, and canned shrimp and seafood.
They realized the only way to ensure customers that the fresh, frozen, and canned shrimp they are buying is ethically and sustainably raised and harvested is to only source it from the United States—Texas, Florida or Oregon—or from countries of the Gulf of Mexico.
“We want to avoid all chances of selling shrimp harvested or processed under slavery conditions and to avoid all chances of selling farm-raised shrimp that could be contaminated with unsafe or untested substances or pharmaceuticals,” said Margaret Mittelstadt, Outpost’s community relations director.
A Pulitzer Prize winning investigative report broke the story on slavery in the international fishing industry in March 2015. At that time, Outpost buyers decided to remove any shrimp from questionable sources from inventory. Since that story ran, even though there have been claims that these abuses have been cleaned up, recent reports are still coming in that such practices still run rampant.
Not all are bad players.
While other international shrimp companies may be practicing acceptable farming and processing methods, once it leaves their docks the shrimp could be co-mingled with other shrimp at larger packinghouses.
Thailand exports 50% of all shrimp coming into the U.S. Enslaved humans are still being used within the Thai shrimp production chain to process their product for the international market.
Malaysia is among the top 10 suppliers of imported shrimp in the U.S. Recently, farm-raised shrimp coming from this region have been found to contain residues of unsafe or untested chemicals and animal pharmaceuticals.
Mittelstadt said, “This is an ongoing international issue of broad scope and scale. It’s not just one company or vendor. We are fortunate that right now Outpost buyers can source a limited supply of domestic or Gulf of Mexico sourced shrimp to meet our customer demand, and will continue to monitor the situation.”