- Associated Press - Thursday, July 7, 2016

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - Better flavor gives Mississippi wild-caught shrimp a competitive advantage over imported and pond raised shrimp, experts say.

Dave Burrage, Mississippi State University Extension Service fisheries specialist, said in a news release Thursday consumers who participate in blind taste tests tend to prefer the taste of wild-caught Gulf shrimp over that of pond-raised, imported products.

“Fresh Gulf shrimp get their distinctive flavor from their natural diet, as opposed to the artificial feed given to shrimp raised in captivity,” Burrage said. “If you have ever stood on the beach where waves are breaking and smelled the salt mist in the air, that is what fresh shrimp taste like.

“Mississippi shrimpers have no trouble selling all they catch, as shrimp continue to be the leading seafood item consumed in the U.S.,” he said.

Ben Posadas, Extension seafood marketing specialist at the Coastal Research and Extension Center in Biloxi, said imported shrimp comprise about 90 percent of the total supply in the United States.

“Imports of shrimp have led to the continued decline in shrimp prices over time, since imported shrimp are cheaper,” Posadas said.

Earl Ross is a retired shrimper who lives in Biloxi. He shrimped for about 25 years, and his last shrimp boat was the Lady Dizzy, which he harbored in Ocean Springs.

“Gulf shrimp are a better product,” Ross said. “They taste better than foreign shrimp and pond-raised prawns.”

Ross said until consumers recognize and value the flavor difference, wild-caught Gulf shrimp will continue to hold a small part of the market.

The shrimp industry in the Gulf of Mexico suffered two severe blows in recent years. In 2005, Hurricane Katrina destroyed much of the shrimp boat fleet and processing facilities along the Gulf Coast. In 2010, the massive Deepwater Horizon oil spill devastated the Gulf region.

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