shrimp: a net gain
by Pat Volchok
COOKED SHRIMP are one of nature’s delights.
They offer sweet, melt-in-your-mouth flavor, a luscious bite and great visual appeal. These are the
shrimp of fabulous risottos, crisp salads, dipping
sauces, barbecues and tempura.
Alas, along with these most excellent crustaceans
in the marketplace are inferior shrimp—small, rubbery and essentially tasteless. The challenge for consumers lies in purchasing only the luscious morsels.
Ken Kimble of Costco corporate foods nods in
agreement when I share my observation about the
two qualities of shrimp sold in today’s market.
“You are right,” he affirms. “There is a real mixed
catch of shrimp right now, and many times quality
is being forsaken for profit. It becomes really hard
for consumers to tell which class of shrimp they
are buying. This is why we’ve taken matters into
our own hands with the introduction of Costco’s
Kirkland Signature shrimp.”
I learn that Costco assigned a group of buyers day. “Refrigeration and icing practices are often
the task of visiting 70 to 80 shrimp processors questionable at each step in the process,” says Jim.
throughout the world over the past three years. This waiting game repeats itself at the plant.
Along with Ken, the team consisted of Jim Stafford Shrimp are left unattended until processing can
from Costco’s Northeast region, Tracy Mauldin- occur. In some cases, it can take three days for
Avery from the San Francisco Bay Area and Bill shrimp to get from pond to packing.
Mardon, a fresh-foods seafood buyer. Worrisome practices were also discovered at many
We talked via conference call about the develop- facilities. Tracy reports that the group found sodium
ment of Costco’s new shrimp program. In their tripolyphosphate (STPP) in use. STPP is commonly
research, the group learned as much about the busi- added to shrimp to replace water that is lost during
ness as possible—including many troubling issues. It freezing. But some processors go too far, using STPP to
seems the common practice, when cultivating puff up shrimp for inflated weight readings. Upon
shrimp from ponds, is for harvesters to load the cooking, STPP-enhanced shrimpshrivelup,tasterub- Send your questions
catch into big tubs and have them hauled to outdoor bery and turn translucent rather than white. or comments
auction markets. In these situations, there’s no cli- None of these practices are acceptable to for Pat Volchok to:
mate control, the days can be hot, the shrimp may Costco—hence the move to Kirkland Signature™,
travel quite a distance and the sale may not be for Costco’s private-label brand. Costco established
many hours or until the next day. programs with a handful of select shrimp process- For more from Pat
Once the shrimp are purchased, a processor ors to produce a variety of high-quality Kirkland on shrimp, visit
transports them to a plant—which can take another Signature shrimp (see list above right).