Shrimp Made Simple

When shopping for shrimp, there are a few components we must consider as consumers. 

- Are shrimps wild or farmed, what is the difference?

- How are the shrimps farmed?

- What is the difference between Black Tiger and White Shrimp?

- Prawns and Shrimps, are they the same?

- What do the numbers mean and how does sizing work?

- What are the different acronyms?

First question we must ask when purchasing shrimp, is the product wild caught or farmed?  Main differences between the two are price and taste quality. Wild shrimp will always be more expensive as they go through rigorous inspections in order to be marketed as wild. Specified fishing seasons, locations, and processing methods all play a role when determining its price. Its flavor is also greatly affected by its natural environment and diet. For first time seafood eaters, the difference may not be as noticeable. However, experienced seafood lovers will tell you that wild shrimp has a more oceanic flavor and sweeter finish. 

Shrimp farming can be categorized into 4 methods based on stock density:

1) Extensive: 8 or less animals/ m2

2) Semi-Intensive: 9-20 animals/ m2

3) Intensive: 20-80 animals/ m2

4) Super Intensive: 80+ animals/ m2

Shrimp farms are typically set up using raised ponds that consist of feed, aeration, and waste pumps. Shrimp feed is a combination of protein (fishmeal, fish oil), grains, and a blend of species-specific nutrients. Farming method is a major factor when considering the price of shrimp as intensive methods require significantly more resources, labor and technology. 

Black Tiger Shrimp

White Shrimp

Easily recognized by tiger stripes along shell and tail. Color ranges from black, grey, to blue.

Color ranges from grey, brown, to white.

Carries a bold flavor with a sweet finish.

Has a milder flavor when compared to BT shrimp with a sweet finish.

Texture is firm with a meaty and snappy feel

Texture is not as meaty when compared to BT shrimp, however, still firm.

*Shell and shrimp color are dependent on water quality and feed, not necessarily an indication of poor/good quality.

In the marketplace where identical items are sold next to each other and interchangeable terms are listed, we must educate ourselves on the differences between species to ensure 100% confidence in your food. One common misconception is that shrimp and prawns are the same species. However, they are marketed separately based on size, which is not the case. Below are a couple factors to take into consideration when purchasing shrimp or prawns. 



Most species are found in fresh water, very few reside in salt water (for example BC Spot Prawn).

Many varieties which can be found in both salt and fresh water.

Larger, meatier, and sweeter than shrimps. Larger pincers and legs are characteristics related to prawns.

Smaller in size when compared to prawns.

Prawns have three pairs of claws which make for easy recognition when unpeeled.

Shrimp have only one pair of claws.

Prawn shell segments overlap in ascending order, so there is less of a bend in the body.

Easily recognized by slight curvature in the back of shrimp due to shell placement. Second shell segment sits on top of first and third.

Reproduce by releasing eggs into water for them to develop on their own.

Reproduce by carrying fertilized eggs on underside of

What do the numbers mean and how does sizing work?

Shrimps are sized according to how many pieces make up a pound. For example, our 16/20 white shrimp will have 16-20 pieces in a pound. Generally, the average size will lean closer to the higher end of the given range, so we can expect 18-19 pieces of shrimp in 1 pound. 

Shrimp Acronyms Explained


Head on, shell on


Headless, shell on


Headless, shell on, easy peel (shell is split along the backside of shrimp)


Peeled, deveined (meaning main vein along the back is removed), tail on


Peeled, deveined, tail off


Cooked, peeled, tail on


Cooked, peeled, tail off