Why Are We Eating So Much Shrimp ?

We need your help with a little social experiment.

Between 1980 and 2005, the amount of shrimp consumed by Americans nearly tripled, from 1.4 pounds per person to 4.1 pounds per person.

Shane Frederick, an M.I.T. management professor, has made a hobby of asking anyone he meets why Americans eat so much more shrimp today than they did 25 years ago. He thinks he has found a very interesting pattern in the responses. He wants to test his hypothesis on Freakonomics blog readers.

Here is my request: without researching the topic via Google or other means, and without reading the comments that other blog readers have left, think about why shrimp consumption has gone up so much. Leave your answer, along with your occupation, your college major, your gender, and your age in the comments section.

In a few days, we will tally up the results, present Shane’s hypothesis, and see how it fares.

mary holland

It is fast, easy and tasty

Tom Casker

Good marketing and advertising, coupled with Shrimp being a "good" product. Bite size, low fat, convenient, and versatile. Retired, AB Economics, 70 years old, male.


Several reason why I think shrimp consumption in the USA has gone up exponentially:

- popularity of Forrest Gump movie
- cost per pound (when compared with other protein foods) has gone down relative to other main course options
- reason costs have come down is that shrimping competition is much greater (mainly, more shrimpers of Vietnamese heritage working harder than prior shrimpers)
- considered an economic substitute for the most desired crustacean, lobster.

Ming Zhang

no report on how badly the shrimps are contaminated.

Educational professor

Heinrich Beck

Answer: Shrimp is cheaper today than it was 25 years ago (probably due to advances in how shrimp is caught, more shrimp harvesting areas available, etc..)
Occupation: Software QC Engineer
College Major: Linguistics
Gender: Male
Age: 41


I grew up with a bland diet in the Midwest and I never had shrimp until I went to California for graduate school. Now I have it intermittently, mostly in Chinese restaurants, so my shrimp consumption went from zero to about once a month, sometimes a little more often when I am living abroad or going to a bunch of receptions where there always seem to be shrimp platters.

Occupation: university professor
College major: electrical engineering
Gender: female
Age: 44


I'm a semi-vegetarian: i only eat certain seafood, and nothing else.

Shrimp is one of three kinds of fish that i eat, and its fairly cheap and easy to cook.

Occupation: grad student/receptionist
Major: English
Gender: Female
Age: 24

Robert Sarno

occupation: proctologist
college major: bs biochemistry, ms computer science & mba/ ms accounting
gender: m
age: 37

comments: price that suppliers gives markets that give specials that entice consumers


Increased supply from low-cost Asian shrimp.

Increased cost of substitues (lobster, crab, etc).

24, economics


My guess is that shrimp is more abundant and cheaper than it was in 1980, so people are eating more of it.

Too simple?

Editor, history, male, 36


I don't know much about the history of shrimp processing, but I do know that pre-cooked, deshelled, deveined shrimp are mighty popular buys at the markets. Perhaps an increased prevalence and efficiency in machines that automated these processes are a cause for a rise in shrimp consumption: they made this type of convenient shrimp product cheaper and more widely available to U.S. consumers, who (especiallyin recent years)don't want to spend the time and money to prepare food.

Occupation: Tech Support at Biopharm Lab; College Major: Biology; Gender: Male; Age 26


Fast and easy to prepare. Tasty. Abundance of recipes to choose from and, when one feels inspired to cook sans recipe, particularly easy ingredient with which to freestyle.

Danny Olympia WA

They have become more affordable-- farm raised, from Thailand and other places. Probably contaminated, but I don't taste that. I also appreciate speed, protein, and low calories. I feel like I am eating like I am rich on a moderate budget. Growing up in MT the only shrimp I ever experienced was arare treat of deep fried shrimp. Now I often eat freshly steamed.

Some colege
Government WOrker

drew quinton

i have always loved shrip. i used to call them 'srimp' when i was a little kid. i dont think the amount of shrip i have been consuming has had a significant change in any direction in my lifetime.

-sociology major at king's college, 22 years old, male.


Probably because we just eat more in general now and comsumption of all foods has gone up. Also nowadays everyone eats sushi which involves a lot of shrimp, it is no longer the delicacy it was 25 years ago that only the rich could enjoy.

Who knows?


oops. forgot to follow directions:

occupation: web development
major: english
gender: male
age: 33

Erin McGrath

I can think of two reasons shrimp consumption has increased: First: the children of baby boomers were introduced to eating more exotic and expensive food, relative to their own exposure to foods, than the boomers were at that age. Since shrimp became part of their diet through young adulthood,these children, their boomer parents and in some cases the grandchildren all eat it. Second: Population changes. Increased immigration from other countries, primarily Asian, Central and South America include shrimp as part of their diet.

Female, 47
Occupation: Mother/Director of Marketing
College Majors: English Literature/American History


Increased efficiency in commercial fishing (shrimping?) operations has driven down prices.

Perceived health benefits over other sources of animal protein (seafood vs red meat.)

Population shifts towards the Sun Belt.

Joke answer: the popularity of the film "Forrest Gump"?



My guesses:

1. More people eating vegetarian.
2. People eating in restaurants more frequently, which are serving larger portions.
3. Increased awareness of ethinic food (whether from immigrants, restaurants or recipes available online).

Occupation: Records manager
College Major: Preservation, B.A. Library Science, M.S.
Gender: Female
Age: 23

Mike Palmer

The price of shrimp relative to the price of other fish and seafood has declined over the last 25 years.