If you’re a big fan of shrimp, you may be wondering whether this counts as a kind of meat or not. Shrimp is tricky to define if you aren’t sure, so let’s look at its classification.
Is shrimp considered a meat? Meat is usually defined as animal flesh, and using this definition, shrimp does count as a meat. However, for culinary purposes, it is often categorized as shellfish instead. True vegetarians do not eat shrimp, but pescetarians (who eat fish but no other meat) may do. Certain religions may categorize shellfish in different ways.
What Makes Shrimp Count as a Meat?
Shrimp counts as meat by many definitions because it is the flesh of an animal. Coming from the sea does not stop it from being classed as a living creature, and this means that it is broadly defined as a meat, and therefore off-limits to vegetarians and vegans.
This is the simplest way to define shrimp and the one that many people use. Few people would class it as a vegetarian meal, even if they don’t think of it in the same category as other meats, like beef and chicken. It was a living creature that has been harvested for food, and therefore, it is meat.
Why Doesn’t Shrimp Always Get Classified as a Meat?
There are a few different reasons that shrimp is sometimes not classified as meat: for religious reasons, for ethical reasons, and for culinary reasons. None of these are basing the definition upon the simple one (meat is animal flesh), but are looking at it from different standpoints.
For example, Catholics do not eat meat on Fridays, but instead eat fish. Fish has therefore been separated from meat for religious reasons for centuries, and this is still playing into modern definitions. Shrimp, being a kind of fish, would not be defined as meat, and could be eaten on a Friday by Catholics adhering to this rule.
In terms of ethics, pescetarians will eat fish, but not other kinds of meat. Meat, to pescetarians, involves any living creature that is not fish. This distinction may be made for environmental reasons; a lot of traditional animal farming is environmentally damaging, but catching fish has (sometimes) been less so.
From a culinary perspective, there are a few other reasons that shrimp may not be counted as meat. One is that shellfish is generally considered leaner and healthier than other meats (although this isn’t always the case). It’s rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for your heart health, while a lot of other meat is detrimental to your heart health.
Another reason involves avoiding cross-contamination. Many people are allergic to shellfish and it is important to keep it separate from all other meats for this reason. Meat and fish are rarely cooked or prepared together, unless they are both being used in the same dish. This reduces the risk of allergic reactions.
The separation is also useful for pescetarians, who may be interested in fish dishes, but do not want cross-contamination with meat.
It is therefore easier to define meat and seafood separately when working in the kitchen.
Is Shrimp Healthy?
A lot of people consider seafood healthy because it contains lots of nutrients. Shrimp is a source of vitamin A, vitamin B, and vitamin C, and it also contains calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, and omega-3 fatty acids that can improve heart health.
Furthermore, shrimp is an important source of iodine, which may help to increase brain health. It is high in protein, and it has the antioxidant known as astaxanthin in it. This may also improve the health of your brain, offering anti-inflammatory properties that may help to reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s (although further study is needed to confirm this relationship).
Are There Any Downsides to Consuming Shrimp?
There are a few concerns related to shrimp consumption. A three-ounce serving contains 166 mg of cholesterol, which is significantly higher than in many other kinds of seafood. There are also widespread concerns about illegal antibiotic use, which could be unhealthy and may contribute to antibiotic-resistant diseases.
Some people view shrimps as the least healthy seafood out there, due to intense farming conditions, medication, diseases, and pollution. This is particularly true of imported shrimps, and although it is illegal to import shrimps dosed with antibiotics, the import industry is too large for the FDA to properly regulate it.
This makes it hard for buyers to know whether they are purchasing shrimp that has been dosed or not, and also to assess the quality of the shrimp. There is a risk of consuming low-standard shrimp if the supplier cannot be verified.
The cholesterol content causes concerns too, although several studies have indicated that this is not as problematic as it sounds. Many people have low sensitivity to dietary cholesterol, and shrimp also contains HDL cholesterol (the “good” kind), which reduces the risk of heart disease.
Overall, it’s challenging to know whether shrimp is good for you or not, but it seems likely that its health benefits generally outweigh its downsides as long as you can purchase it from a reputable supplier. As well as the health concerns, there are human rights concerns that should be overcome by choosing companies that operate ethically.
Can Shrimp Be Eaten Raw?
Theoretically, if handled correctly, shrimp can safely be eaten raw. If it is free from diseases, it should be safe to consume. However, it is rare that you can guarantee this, and in general, shrimp should be cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of bacterial or viral spread. Don’t eat raw shrimp unless you can verify that it is safe.
If you are preparing the shrimp yourself at home, make sure you cook it to the recommended temperature (120 degrees F) to minimize the risk of food poisoning.
Shrimp is generally considered a meat, but there are many circumstances in which it is defined differently. You may find that restaurants and stores separate it for religious reasons, dietary reasons, and the prevention of cross-contamination. It is common to see shrimp and other seafood in a separate section or labeled differently on a menu.