Since I am both highly calorie-restricted and also doing my level best to avoid factory-farmed meat, it is extremely rare these days to open a menu and see more than one thing I can calorically and morally afford. I find myself leaning towards seafood these days, for sources of low-calorie, lean protein which are unlikely to involve ghastly intensive farming practices, but of course anything purchased in a restaurant is suspect until investigated.
Today, I took a look at shrimp, which is delightfully low-calorie (when not coated with heavy sauce, or fried), and easily raised domestically, so I am unlikely to be decimating dwindling wild populations. Shrimp “harvesting” is also reasonably fast and does not involve the inhumane slaughter methods common with large mammals.
Shrimp farming is popular and widespread, which of course invites unfortunate habits by shrimp farmers trying to increase the number of animals they can produce/sustain in an individual pond. Certainly I cannot cover the entirety of “shrimp farming” in a bite-size blog post, but here is a basic overview of U.S. shrimp farming in .pdf form from Auburn University; here is a more in-depth description from Kentucky State University; and here is a formal collection of overall information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Here’s one for the Gulf of Mexico from NASA. For comparison, here is a (likely virus-free) .doc file from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (unfortunately with no date) describing shrimp farms in its member countries.
It’s hard to form a universal rule on store-bought or restaurant-purchased shrimp, since it’s coming from so many sources, but fortunately a lot of restaurants are wising up and at least giving lip service to sustainable (and reasonably kind) farming practices. Here’s the info for Red Lobster, whose menu caused my initial investigation re: seafood. Hmm, pretty vague on farming practices, but I like that they’ve teamed with an aquarium. Purchasing the fish at a specialty grocery store is usually safer: here’s the info for Whole Foods Market, which both reassures me that they’re at least trying, and paints a terrifying picture of what some shrimp farms must be doing, in order for Whole Foods to require rules such as these.
Seafood as a whole is generally suspect due to overfishing and overfarming, but there are some good options out there. Here’s some good advice on picking “kind” and healthy seafood from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, including the Seafood Watch app for Android and iPhone, which can be used to find local restaurants which have chosen to purchase their seafood sustainably.