Shrimponomics

And speaking of shrimp, Steven Levitt over at the New York Times blog Freakonomics has a great post analyzing different responses to his question: Why are we eating so much shrimp? He found, in conjunction with another hypothesis, that non-economists (i.e., anyone who didn't major in economics) mostly thought that we are eating more shrimp because of demand-based reasons (e.g. the movie Forrest Gump, a rise in the number of vegetarians who will eat shrimp, etc). Levitt, however, concludes that shrimp consumption has risen due to an increase in supply (and a subsequent decrease in price) due mostly to increase in production (i.e., shrimp farming). He then moves on to tuna...

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I think it's also due to the variety - remember this from Forrest Gump?

Bubba Blue (Mykelti Williamson): "Shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, sautee it. There's, um, shrimp kebabs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo, pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There's pineapple shrimp and lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich... That's, that's about it."

It's time for a broader term for this idea of supply/p.r. driven food consumption. Isn't this also the case for soy and corn consumption in the U.S. over the past couple decades. Nobody asked to subsist on a diet of high fructose corn syrup and partially hydrogenated soy extract, but somehow the suppliers have pulled off the transformation.

By Randy Olson, H… (not verified) on 03 Sep 2007 #permalink

Randy, interesting point, but what do you suggest as the term?

What I think is needed is stronger sustainable food (in general, not just seafood) lobby in D.C. who can battle the bulldogs of the industry there. There needs to be more public debate - on TV, radio, popular webpages etc., not just non-profit groups pages, blogs etc. that general public doesn't see or read. Why aren't there people on NPR and cable news networks espousing the benefits of eat local eat sustainable? Why aren't local producers or sustainable producers on local TV news or newspaper?

Perhaps there should be use of the tactics of the yucky-food lobby to aid the yummy-food lobby. TV commercials that say instead of "got milk", "got locally produced, organic free-range cow, Ab free, sustainable principled milk"?

Barbara Kingsolver's 2002 collection "Small Wonder" also contains some wonderful essays on this discussion. She has also published a new work this year "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle" about her family's decision to grow and raise everything they eat. But nothing has gotten better (perhaps some say it has gotten worse!) in the last five years. This is the most frustrating for me - that real change seems almost impossible most of the time; at least on the time scale that we can pay attention to. And when a few more years pass by without any significant change, I worry that the issue of sustainable food will just fade into the distance as new challenges and issues are brought to the foreground.