Seafood Serving Sizes Examined: How Big Is A Shrimp?

Arpitha Rajendra
Jan 17, 2023 By Arpitha Rajendra
Originally Published on Oct 22, 2021
Healthy live Vannamei broodstock shrimp on a hand.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 6.6 Min

The most sustainable shrimp is wild-caught. These are caught using small traps and nets whereas farmed shrimps are mostly imported so they are not sustainable.

There are several sizes of shrimps, so how do you choose the right ones for your dish? Well, there are a lot of us that face this issue.

A shrimp is a 10-legged crustacean, and any crustacean that looks similar to a shrimp is usually called one. Prawns are often called shrimps. Unlike strong legs of lobster and crab, shrimps have weaker, thin legs typically used for perching.

Often solitary, shrimps can come together in large schools in the spawning season like fish species do. As a food, shrimp populations are abundant and widely caught in deep and shallow waters.

It was in the '80s that shrimp farming became prominent, especially in China. The harvest increased by the year 2007. Large shrimps that measure 9.8 in (25 cm) are commercially targeted and are called prawns, particularly in Britain.

Shrimp sizes that are usually found are 0.79 in (2 cm) in length. Other main producers of shrimps are Vietnam, India, Bangladesh, Ecuador, Thailand, Indonesia, and Brazil.

If you enjoy reading these facts about how big is a shrimp, then make sure to read some more interesting facts about what do shrimp eat and how big do guppies get here at Kidadl.

How big is a normal-sized shrimp?

The average shrimp sizes are between 1.5-3 in (4-8 cm).

In the United States, shrimps are bought in count per pound. There are over 300 types of shrimp available in the market.

Shrimps in the farming industry take almost three to six months to grow and get large enough for the market. Many shrimp species, around 60 of them, from commercial capture make it into the market every year whereas only around 20 species make it from aquaculture.

As the size of shrimp varies, we measure them as shrimp per pound (0.45 kg).

The average size range of a shrimp is 6 in (15.24 cm) including the tail and the head and shrimp can grow up to a range of 1 ft (30.4 cm) in length. Although shrimp can live for six years in the wild, farmed shrimp species only live for six months.

The species of shrimp varies in sizes from tiny, extra small, small, medium, medium-large, large, extra-large, jumbo, colossal, super colossal, to extra colossal. For appetizer dishes the serving size of two or three medium-large fresh shrimps is ideal.

As part of the main course, the serving size can be a 9-11 medium shrimp per person.

If large or jumbo shrimp are being used, five to seven shrimp species per person is ideal, and if it is extra-jumbo shrimp and larger, three to five shrimps are ideal. You can use a large number of shrimp for cooking as the shrimp sizes decrease.

Person holding a bunch of white shrimps in hand

How can you tell how big a shrimp is?

You can tell how big a shrimp is by the type and size range of the species.

Shrimp sizes are expressed using a number system like U/15 or 26/30. If counts show 'U' then it indicates that the number of shrimp is 'under' per pound (0.45 kg).

The slash in between the numbers shows a range of shrimp per pound (0.45 kg). So, the number count U/15 has less than 15 shrimp counts per pound (0.45 kg). 26/30 means 26-30 shrimp count per pound (0.45 kg).

As these counts get smaller the shrimp get larger. There will also be a serving term like small shrimp, jumbo shrimp, or large shrimp on the package.

However, this standard food serving size is not usually followed. For example, if the shrimp is 'extra jumbo' the store might call it 'colossal'. Also, cooked or peeled shrimp might have varying serving counts.

These numbers are valid for both frozen and fresh shrimp. It is better to refer to count per pound instead of the shrimp size.

The serving size as given by the FDA for cooked seafood is 0.18 lb (85 g). There are a number of shrimp species that are used for the purpose of cooking.

Pink shrimps that come from Florida's coast are small-sized and usually used in salads. Brown shrimps have brown-red shells and are either boiled or steamed before eating. Some other food shrimps are spot shrimp, tiger shrimp, and rock shrimp.

Some shrimp species are used as aquarium pets. Some of these are red cherry shrimp, blue bolt shrimp, blue tiger shrimp, and crystal shrimp.

Does shrimp size include heads and tails?

For easy cooking, shrimps are deveined and peeled so shrimp size doesn't count head and tail.

Commercial shrimp species usually have their tail, head, and shells removed from the body. The shrimp's body is divided into two parts: the thorax and the head, which are fused forming a narrow abdomen and cephalothorax.

Shells are called the carapace and protect the gills. Their legs, eyes, rostrum, and whiskers emerge from the carapace. Shrimp is not only a food source for humans but also for many fish, sharks, and other species.

With the head, the shrimp get two counts larger, and with shells and tails shrimp get one count larger, as per the Louisiana Direct Seafood's Handbook. So, if one buys a package displaying U/15 consisting of shells and the head, then the weight becomes two times smaller to 21/25 shrimp per pound (0.45 kg) and becomes 26/30 after peeling.

As a food, shrimp contains cholesterol, fat, Omega-3, iodine, protein, fat, and calcium. Shrimp has a superior amount of protein.

Protein intake is necessary; however, eating a lot of high cholesterol food is bad for the heart.

Other reports prove saturated fat increases the cholesterol in the body so it is best to check the amount of cholesterol in food. It is best to eat shrimp in moderation.

What is the biggest shrimp size?

Extra colossal is the biggest shrimp size, counting as big as five shrimp per pound (0.45 kg) and measuring up to a size of 12 in (30.48 cm).

Colossal shrimp are naturally larger compared to ones at stores or restaurants. This large shrimp is also bigger than any shellfish at a fish market or grocery store.

It is around 8-12 shrimp per pound. The taste of this large shrimp is described as delicious and juicy with a savory-sweet flavor. As this animal is a large shrimp it is best used for grilling and it can withstand the high temperature of open flames without burning like smaller ones.

This large shrimp can be served as either a cocktail appetizer or mixed into a pasta dish. It can be added to the barbeque or cooked as stuffed shrimp. Also, you will not need a lot of colossal shrimps to make one dish.

For an appetizer, you can make use of two colossal shrimps. You can use around four colossal shrimps per person as an entrée.

Like all shrimps, colossal shrimp are also a rich source of lean protein. It has low calories and very little fat, and it fills your stomach and controls appetite. With 0.039 lb (18 g) of protein, this shrimp is free of carbohydrates.

Compared to small-sized shrimps, colossal shrimp need longer to cook. However, they cook faster than poultry, fish pellets, and red meat. This shrimp is fully cooked when it turns red and curves into a c-shape around 145 F (62.7 C).

Jumbo shrimp is the second largest size of the shrimp species. Jumbo shrimp is 13-25 shrimp per pound.

The texture of this shrimp is crunchy and snappy with a sweet flavor. The serving size of this shrimp involves a few more shrimp than a serving size of colossal shrimp: four to five jumbos for an appetizer and six to eight jumbos for an entrée. Jumbo shrimp have a little more calories and protein than colossal shrimp.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestion for how big is a shrimp, then why not take a look at how big do painted turtles get or shrimp facts?

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Written by Arpitha Rajendra

Bachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

Arpitha Rajendra picture

Arpitha RajendraBachelor of Engineering specializing in Aeronautical/Aerospace Technology, Master of Business Administration specializing in Management

With a background in Aeronautical Engineering and practical experience in various technical areas, Arpitha is a valuable member of the Kidadl content writing team. She did her Bachelor's degree in Engineering, specializing in Aeronautical Engineering, at Nitte Meenakshi Institute of Technology in 2020. Arpitha has honed her skills through her work with leading companies in Bangalore, where she contributed to several noteworthy projects, including the development of high-performance aircraft using morphing technology and the analysis of crack propagation using Abaqus XFEM.

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