Shrimp is one of the most popular types of seafood in the world. In fact, statistics show that the average person eats about 4 pounds of shrimp annually. But most people still can’t decide whether to classify shrimp as a type of fish, insect, or something else.
So, technically, shrimp is not recognized as a fish. Although it’s a form of seafood, it’s biologically classified as a crustacean. That said, shrimp is still considered a shellfish for culinary purposes.
In this article, we’ll look at shrimp as a source of food and how its biological characteristics confuse many who want to classify it.
So, is shrimp a fish? is it an insect? Is it meat? Where exactly does this little delicious sea creature belong? Read on to learn more.
What Is a Shrimp?
Although shrimp are called shellfish, they are actually small crustaceans (Decapoda) that feed on algae, plankton, and other decaying matter.
When alive, they have a hard exterior shell; long but slender abdomens and look like tiny lobsters.
Shrimp is one of, if not the most popular seafood for humans and feeds most carnivorous fish in the sea.
Is Shrimp a Fish or Meat?
Since shrimp is biologically classified as a crustacean, it’s not considered a fish. Still, it’s classified as seafood because it’s not a dry land animal.
With the above in mind, shrimp can be considered meat. Technically, meat is the flesh of an animal.
Although as a shellfish, it can be differentiated from the meat of land animals, usually for cultural, legal, or religious purposes. The Jewish religion, for example, forbids the consumption of shellfish.
Shrimp Taxonomic Vs. Culinary Classifications
As noted earlier, shrimp are biologically classified as decapod crustaceans; part of a large, diverse arthropod taxon.
Unlike crabs or lobster, they have well-developed pleopods, which they use for swimming and brooding eggs.
On the other hand, shrimp is classified as shellfish for culinary purposes.
The Difference Between Fish and Shrimp
Aside from the fact that they both live in water, fish and shrimp have few similarities. For example, fish are vertebrates with a backbone, while shrimp are invertebrates with a carapace or exoskeleton.
Here are a few other differences between the two.
- Fish have more features in common with other vertebrates like lions or cats- they have a complex nervous system and teeth. On the other hand, shrimp are arthropods, which means they are more closely related to spiders or grasshoppers than to fish.
- Shrimp use their limbs to move around in the water, while fish use their fins for swimming.
- Shrimp have hardened shells to protect their bodies, while most fish have scales.
So, is Shrimp a Shellfish?
Yes. Shellfish refers to exoskeleton-bearing aquatic invertebrates that are used as human food. As we’ve seen above, shrimp fits that description perfectly, making it a shellfish.
The shellfish umbrella also includes lobsters, crabs, squid, and oysters. However, despite the name, shellfish are not fish. In fact, many varieties of shellfish, including shrimp, are closer to arachnids and insects than fish.
As a source of food, shellfish like shrimp are rich in omega-3 fatty acids, proteins, and other nutrients. They are also low in carbohydrates and fats.
Can You Eat Shrimp With a Shellfish Allergy?
A shellfish allergy is an abnormal response by the body’s immune system to some proteins found in shellfish.
According to a study by The Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, these allergies are common and affect 2.9% of the US population.
Shrimp is one of the shellfish that causes shellfish allergies, along with lobsters, oysters, squid, scallops, and others. Even so, some people are allergic to some types of shellfish while others are allergic to all of them.
Therefore, you shouldn’t eat shrimp if you have a shellfish allergy unless shrimp does not trigger your allergy. If you’re not sure, it’s best to avoid it until you talk to your doctor and take tests to confirm which shellfish you’re allergic to.
Why is Shrimp Not an Insect?
If shrimp is closer to grasshoppers than fish, does that make it an insect? It’s hard to come up with a definitive answer.
From an observational standpoint, shrimp, lobsters, and other shellfish are the terrestrial and aquatic versions of familiar insects. They look, move and act like land insects, especially scavenging insects.
They belong to the same phylum, arthropod, but are categorized in different classes. This means they are related but not quite the same.
Additionally, while both shrimp and insects can be used for food, shrimp are definitely more popular dining fare.
Can I Eat Shrimp on Keto?
A ketogenic diet is a low carbohydrate, high-fat diet with many health benefits. It’s been found to help in weight reduction and may even have benefits against diseases such as epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Although shrimp offers less than 1 gram of fat per 100 gram serving, shrimp remains an excellent option for low carb diets like Keto for a few reasons:
- Shrimp is a satiating low calorie seafood option. This is because it is packed with proteins that keep you full for longer.
- Shrimp is a great source of disease-fighting antioxidants.
- Shrimp is rich in minerals and vitamins.
- Although shrimp lacks dietary fats, it makes up for them in omega-3 fatty acids, which are great for the heart.
Therefore, shrimp is definitely a keto-friendly shellfish. Although not considered a zero-calorie food, It has 0 grams of net carbs and is absolutely stacked with proteins.
Read Also: Is Crab a Fish or Meat? (Simply Explained)
Is Shrimp Halal?
Islam has a few restrictions on the types of food you can eat. These restrictions are derived from Qur’an passages and interpreted by Islam scholars.
Things you’re allowed to eat are called halal (meaning lawful), while those you shouldn’t are called haram (unlawful.)
On the issue of shrimp, or seafood as a whole, the scholars can’t seem to reach a consensus. However, most scholars believe that most food coming from the sea is halal to eat, including sea plants and animals.
This is thanks to the passage “… It is lawful for you to hunt and eat seafood, as a provision for you and for travelers…” (Quran 5:96.)
Other scholars believe that seafood might be haram as it causes allergies, which the Qur’an warns against, “…and do not throw [yourselves] with your [own] hands into destruction [by refraining].” (Quran 2:195.)