Is Shrimp Considered a Fish or Meat? Answering the Age-Old Seafood Debate

There are all kinds of meat and fish consumers out there. Some eat a little of everything while others have other dietary restrictions. One of the most common questions people have when trying to figure out what they can and can’t eat is “Is fish meat?” This is especially important if you sell seafood in bulk online.

It’s common for people to claim that bulk fish is a type of meat. In fact, there are a few different ways to classify meat. Some classifying factors include dietary restrictions, religious guidelines, as well as nutritional differences. Â.

Shrimp is one of the most popular seafood options worldwide, prized for its sweet and briny flavor. But there has long been confusion over how to categorize this shellfish. So, is shrimp a fish or is it considered a meat?

The short answer is that shrimp is neither fish nor meat in the traditional sense While it is an animal protein and seafood, shrimp is actually classified as a type of shellfish. The distinctions between seafood, meat, and fish can be confusing, but once you understand the specifics, it becomes clear where shrimp truly belongs

In this article, we’ll break down the definitions and details to finally answer the question – is shrimp a fish or meat? Let’s dive in!

What Makes Something a Fish?

To understand if shrimp qualifies as a fish we first have to define what makes something a fish in scientific terms. There are a few key anatomical characteristics unique to fish

  • Cold-blooded – Fish are ectothermic, meaning they rely on ambient temperatures to regulate their internal body temperature.

  • Gills – Fish respire through gills that filter oxygen from water, not lungs.

  • Fins – Fish have fins for propulsion, not limbs.

  • Scales – Most fish are covered in scales composed of bone-like material.

  • Vertebrae – Fish have a vertebral column, a series of bones that make up their internal skeleton.

Fish come in many diverse shapes, sizes, and attributes, but they all share these basic physiological qualities that classify them taxonomically as fish.

Shrimp Lack the Qualities of Fish

Shrimp may live in the sea just like fish, but they do not share any of the defining biological characteristics of fish. Here’s how shrimp differ from fish:

  • Warmblooded – Shrimp are warm-blooded and can regulate their own temperature.

  • Gills and lungs – Shrimp breathe through gills and small lung-like organs.

  • Legs – Shrimp have 5 pairs of walking legs and 5 pairs of swimming legs. No fins.

  • Exoskeleton – Shrimp have a hard external skeleton and flexible tail. No scales.

  • No vertebrae – Shrimp have no backbone or internal skeleton.

So while they dwell in aquatic environments, shrimp lack gills, fins, vertebrae, and other attributes that would classify them as fish. The anatomy of shrimp is completely different.

Shrimp Are Crustaceans and Shellfish

Instead of fish, shrimp belong to the biological group Crustacea, which includes crabs, lobsters, crayfish, and more. As crustaceans, shrimp have these identifying features:

  • Hard external exoskeleton
  • Two sets of antennae
  • Five pairs of walking legs
  • Three body sections – head, thorax, and abdomen
  • Two compound eyes on stalks

Shrimp are further classified into the shellfish category. Shellfish is a broad term for aquatic creatures like mollusks, crustaceans, echinoderms, and some others.

So while not a fish, shrimp are 100% a type of shellfish and crustacean. Their anatomy and taxonomy align with these categories, not with fish.

How Is Shrimp Different From Other Shellfish?

There are thousands of species of shellfish, from oysters to king crab. Here’s how shrimp differ from some other popular shellfish:

Shrimp vs. Lobster – Lobsters have large front claws while shrimp have smaller claw-like arms. Lobsters also have thicker bodies and antennae compared to the slender, lighter shrimp.

Shrimp vs. Crab – Crabs have short tails and walk sideways, while shrimp have long tails and walk forwards. Crabs also have thicker shells and pincers instead of slim shrimp arms.

Shrimp vs. Prawns – Shrimp and prawns look very similar but prawns are larger with claws on three pairs of legs versus shrimp claws on two pairs.

Shrimp vs. Krill – Krill are tiny, shrimp-like crustaceans that are a key food source for whales. Shrimp are much larger and more closely related to lobsters.

So while shrimp share the shellfish designation with other sea creatures, they have their own distinct appearance and anatomy.

Can Shrimp Be Considered a Type of Meat?

So shrimp isn’t a fish, but can it be classified as a meat? This is where things get murky, mainly because there are different definitions of meat:

  • Culinary – In cooking, meat often refers to red meat or poultry. Fish and seafood are usually separated.

  • Nutritional – Nutritionally, meat or protein refers to any animal flesh, including fish and shellfish.

  • Religious – Some faiths like Christianity classify shellfish and fish differently than land meat like beef.

  • Legal – U.S. food labeling laws distinguish between fish, shellfish, and meat from mammals or fowl.

No matter how you look at it, shrimp is not considered a traditional meat like beef, chicken, or pork. It is a seafood and classified scientifically as part of the animal kingdom, making it an animal protein. But culinary traditions and regulations set it apart from terrestrial meat sources.

Nutritional Profile of Shrimp

While not exactly meat, shrimp does deliver a robust protein punch along with an array of nutrients:

  • High in protein – A 3-ounce serving of shrimp provides over 20 grams of protein.

  • Low in fat – Shrimp have less than 1 gram of fat per serving. Much lower fat than beef or pork.

  • Low in calories – A 3-ounce shrimp serving clocks in at around 100 calories.

  • High in selenium – Shrimp provide over 50% of your RDI for the antioxidant mineral selenium.

  • Good source of B12 – Shrimp supply a healthy dose of the essential vitamin B12.

Shrimp offer a lean and nutrient-dense protein option without the saturated fat and calories of red meat. The nutrition profile is similar to chicken or turkey meat.

How Does Shrimp Taste Compared to Fish?

In terms of taste and texture, shrimp differs quite a bit from finfish:

  • Sweetness – Shrimp have a signature sweet, almost crunchy flavor not found in fish.

  • Firm not flaky – Shrimp have a firm, juicy bite while fish tend to be flakier when cooked.

  • Mild not fishy – Shrimp have a milder, more nuanced flavor than fish which can be overly “fishy.”

  • BUTTERY – Notes of butter and nuts complement the sweetness in shrimp that fish lack.

Of course, taste and preference varies by the exact type of shrimp and fish being compared. But in general, shrimp offer more mild, subtly sweet flavors compared to fish.

Can You Be Allergic to Shrimp But Not Fish?

Some people are allergic or intolerant to shrimp but can still eat other types of seafood. Why?

Fish and shellfish allergies are not the same. Fish allergies are generally caused by parvalbumins found in fish muscle meat. Many shellfish like shrimp contain tropomyosin, a different protein that causes sensitivity.

It is possible to react negatively to shrimp, lobster, or crab but still be able to tolerate salmon, tuna, and other finfish without issues. An allergist can identify which proteins you may be allergic to through testing.

The Verdict: Shrimp Is 100% Not a Fish

While flavors and nutrition may overlap at times, the biological classification of shrimp and fish makes it clear:

Shrimp are not fish.

Shrimp are marine crustaceans and shellfish. Fish have gills, fins, and vertebrae that shrimp simply don’t possess. They belong to entirely separate biological groups.

Culinary traditions may lump shellfish and finfish together as “seafood.” But scientifically, anatomically, and taxonomically shrimp and fish are distinctly different.

Understanding exactly how shrimp differs from fish helps clear up this ongoing food confusion. So next time someone asks if shrimp is a fish, you can set the record straight on shrimp’s true identity as a shellfish, not a finfish.

is shrimp a fish or meat

Meat and Fish Definition

As mentioned above, there can be different ways to classify wholesale meat. However, the scientific definition of meat specifies its primary components. These include protein, water, and fat. It can be edible raw but typically eaten once it’s cooked, seasoned, and processed. Structurally, meat commonly refers to skeletal muscle, tissues, fat, and innards. Â.

Based on these definitions, there’s no doubt that fish is considered meat. However, some experts use meat to specifically describe the flesh of mammals. Fish have a totally different habitat from mammals and are cold-blooded animals. It’s common for people to define meat as only warm-blooded flesh. Â.

Types of Meat Includes

Pescetarianism is a popular dietary choice these days. Due to this, it’s common for people to consider eating fish the same as eating meat. It’s crucial to define the different types of meat products out there. Here are some classifications:

  • Red Meat: All livestock is considered to be red meat. This can include pork, beef, lamb, and goat.
  • Poultry: Oftentimes this is referred to as white meat. This can include turkey and chicken.
  • Fish and crustaceans like lobster, crab, and mollusks like oysters, mussels, scallops, and clams are kinds of seafood. Â .

The term “meat” includes the following:Â

Pork is high in omega-6 fatty acids and vitamin B1. It’s only one of the most popular types of meat worldwide. Pork can be prepared in numerous ways including barbecued pork ribs, Italian sausage, bacon, and more. Its incredible flavor makes it perfect for breakfast, lunch, and dinner options.

Hot dogs, beef jerky, and even T-bone steak all come from beef. Ground beef can be used for burgers and more. It is best to enjoy beef sparingly, but it works for all kinds of meals.

Lamb is a bit more expensive compared to other types of meat. It’s categorized to be meat from young sheep, typically under a year old. Because it has so many nutrients, lamb is thought to be one of the healthiest types of meat. Â.

Goat is also a popular type of meat that is consumed by people on a regular basis. Compared to other meats, it is tougher and more muscular, but it’s often used in stews and braises. This is because they tend to follow low and slow cooking techniques. Â.

If you’re looking for high protein and low fat, chicken meat is ideal. It has both white and dark meat to choose from. Boneless and skinless chicken breast meat is a fan favorite because it doesn’t contain saturated fat. Â.

Not only is turkey ideal for a holiday table, but it’s also perfect for any meal. Some people find it hard to cook turkey because the mild white meat tends to dry out quickly. However, when prepared properly, it can be the perfect protein option.

Duck meat typically refers to the legs and breast of the bird. However, duck liver is also enjoyed. Because there is fat between the skin and the meat, duck meat can soak up a lot of flavor. Â.

As a more nutrient-dense meat option, you can turn to rabbit meat. It is high in selenium and B12. Rabbit meat is also low in calories and high in protein.

Seafood also falls into the meat category. This includes fish, crustaceans, and shellfish. A lot of seafood options have great nutritional value and protein, especially for a healthy diet. Â.

Why Isn’t Fish Considered Meat?


Are shrimp classified as fish?

A shrimp is neither fish nor insect. It is a crustacean, these a close to insects than they are to fish, because both are arthropods. Crustaceans also include lobsters, crabs, crayfish, and numerous tiny creatures that make up a big part of the animal plankton (zooplankton) in both fresh and salt water.

How are shrimp classified?

shrimp, any of the approximately 2,000 species of the suborder Natantia (order Decapoda of the class Crustacea). Close relatives include crabs, crayfish, and lobsters. Shrimp are characterized by a semitransparent body flattened from side to side and a flexible abdomen terminating in a fanlike tail.

Can vegetarians eat shrimp?

Overview. Vegetarians don’t eat any food products made from meat, fish, shellfish, crustacea (such as prawns or crab) or animal by-products (such as gelatine or rennet). Vegans don’t eat any food products that come from animals, including dairy products and eggs.

What food group do shrimp belong to?

Seafood like shrimp, crab, and lobster are a type of shellfish. Shellfish are good for your brain and heart, but it’s common to have a food allergen to foods in this group. Shellfish have been eaten all over the world for centuries. They’re rich in lean protein, healthy fats, and minerals.

Is shrimp a meat?

Both biologically and according to the dictionary definition, seafood and therefore shrimp would be considered meat. However, many religious groups, along with pescatarians and parts of the culinary world would likely make the distinction between meat and fish and therefore say that shrimp isn’t meat. Naturally, this can be quite confusing.

Can one eat raw shrimps?

While raw shrimp or shrimp sashimi can be consumed safely, raw shrimp is considered a high-risk food because it can harbour harmful bacteria such as Salmonella and various Vibrio bacteria. Although some people consider the seafood used in ceviche raw, it is actually cooked by immersing it in an acid rather than using heat. The acid from the citrus can reduce harmful bacteria but it is not as effective as using heat. The safest approach would be to consume only cooked shrimp from a reliable source. The US Food and Drug Administration(FDA) advises that pregnant women, those with weakened immunity, older adults, and young children are at higher risk of foodborne illness and its consequences and should avoid all raw seafood.

Is shrimp a type of seafood?

Shrimp is a type of seafood. Seafood is a term covering a large diversity of living organisms dwelling in water – an ocean, sea, river, or lake. Therefore, shrimp, as well as fish, are considered seafood. To put it simply, seafood is a general term comprising different water creatures – fish, crabs, lobsters, squids, octopus, shrimp, and many more.

Is cooked shrimp a fish?

This issue can be confused further though as whilst raw shrimp meat is the same grey color, cooked shrimp fish is an opaque white pink and red meat. Due to the shrimp being a crustacean, like crab meat, it isn’t technically considered fish, although it does still belong to the seafood food group due to not being land animals.

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