There's Nothing Small About Shrimp's Carbon Footprint

There's perhaps no other animal on Earth so synonymous with all things diminutive as the modestly framed shrimp -- but, as it turns out, not everything about those famed crustaceans is small. Biologists say that common shrimp farming methods across Asia are so devastating to fragile ecosystems as to make ordering a simple shrimp cocktail one of the worst things you could do for the environment in the name of grabbing some grub.

In an attempt to measure the economic costs of deforestation and habitat loss, Oregon State University biologist J. Boone Kauffman set out to quantify the oft overlooked true pricetag of harvesting shrimp. According to the researcher, over half of the shrimp consumed in the world originate from farms in Asia, with most of those farms having been established on land where mangrove forests once stood. And, as if that weren't bad enough, the ecologically impactful farms are horribly inefficient.

How's this for mindboggling: it takes five square miles of cleared mangrove forest to produce just over two pounds of shrimp -- and that land is typically left depleted within ten years and rendered unusable for another forty. By comparison, the devastation left behind from cattle-ranch deforestation seems, well, quite rosy.

"The carbon footprint of the shrimp from this land use is about 10-fold greater than the land use carbon footprint of an equivalent amount of beef produced from a pasture formed from a tropical rainforest," Kauffman tells the AFP, via Phys Org.

All told, says Kauffman, what might seem like an exotic culinary treat really adds up to something jaw-droppingly unsustainable; a serving of a mere 3.5 ounces of shrimp carries with it a carbon footprint equally 436 pounds of CO2!

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