I like shrimp. I am not alone. Oceana, a nonprofit that promotes responsible fishing, reports that shrimp is the most popular seafood in the United States. I’m sure a survey of attendees at weddings and political fundraisers would bear that out.
In my younger days, I didn’t think about where the shrimp I was grabbing off a platter originated. I was eating shrimp. Yum. And drinking beer. Or wine, if I had to appear to be on my best behavior.
Not that long ago, I’d jump at the opportunity to buy a package of imported farm-raised frozen shrimp on sale at the local supermarket. The country of origin was most often India, Thailand, or Indonesia. So what? It was inexpensive.
But somewhere along my stumbling culinary path, I learned about shrimp farming practices in countries where government oversight is lax. Unfair labor practices and the widespread use of antibiotics are just some of the issues reported in the press.
Increasingly, I looked for wild-caught shrimp from the gulf. But the quality available in local markets varied.
In April, I saw an ad for Sun Shrimp. So I clicked on it.
I learned that Sun Shrimp is a Florida-based shrimp aquaculture farm with the stated goal of building a sustainable U.S. seafood industry. The company claims to use no antibiotics or additives to bleach or rehydrate the shrimp, a common industry practice. Shrimp are harvested, packed, and immediately shipped out fresh the same day.
The Sun Shrimp story intrigued me. The shrimp was expensive — five pounds of large whole shrimp divided into ten trays for $90 — but I was willing to pay a premium for a quality product. Plus, the company was offering free shipping for orders over $50.
But, I wondered, could they get shrimp to me on Martha’s Vineyard when a letter mailed from Vineyard Haven to Edgartown might take one week to arrive. To hedge my bet, I asked foodie, chef, and gardener Ned Casey to go in with me on an order of a family pack.
Because you can specify on what day you want the shrimp sent, I chose Monday to avoid any chance of a weekend delay. A box of very cold, fresh shrimp arrived late Wednesday.
I was impressed. More so when I opened my first tray. There was none of the odor I associated with imported shrimp.
Grilled shrimp. Stir-fried vegetables and shrimp. We quickly ate through our share of the order.
The onslaught of Martha’s Vineyard summer traffic and visitors inspired Norma and me to go back into self-quarantine. Beer and wine get delivered. Trips to Cronig's Market (forget the Stop and Shop parking and check-out scrum) are timed with the arrival of ferries. I catch my own fish, otherwise, we pull venison out of the freezer.
It was time to put shrimp on the menu. So I ordered a five-pound package of whole jumbo shrimp.
On Monday, July 19 I received an email from Sun Shrimp informing me that my shrimp had been harvested, packed, and shipped Monday evening via UPS 2nd Day Air. A tracking number was provided so I could watch my guys travel up the east coast faster than you can find a parking spot in Edgartown on a Friday evening.
Wednesday my tracking number showed that my package was at the UPS Sagamore facility, the last stop before freight is shipped to the Island. I figured Norma and I would be grilling shrimp for dinner.
Imagine my disappointment when my tracking number brought this update: "July 21 - 9:58 am: We've incorrectly sorted this package which may cause a delay West Yarmouth MA."
What! West Yarmouth?
I immediately emailed Sun Shrimp. I explained that I did not blame them and asked what I should do.
A short time later I received a call from Deb at Sun Shrimp in St. James City, Florida. She apologized for the UPS delay and said she would send out a replacement package immediately.
In the event, she said, that the original shipment arrived, she said that I would find a temperature quality temperature indicator inside my shipment that would let me know if the shrimp was still safe to eat. And I should enjoy it with their compliments.
Late Thursday, the misdirected package arrived at my door. To my relief and great surprise, the shrimp was quite cold and the temperature indicator was the correct color. All good.
The following week, our replacement package, sent out late Monday, arrived cold and safe on our doorstep, late Wednesday. And that evening, we celebrated with shrimp on the grill.
But this story is not only about shrimp. It’s about Sun Shrimp’s culture and values, which are reflected in its commitment to customer service.
They did not shift the blame to UPS. There was no tortuous path through voice mail. Sun Shrimp (Deb) took the time to resolve the problem.
So the next time you read about what is wrong in our country, remember that there are many people and companies working very hard to succeed and who get it right.