History of the Industry
Although Blum and Bergeron is the oldest dried shrimp company in the United States, we did not invent the art of drying shrimp. That was done long before history was written. Some will tell you that drying shrimp began by prehistoric folk right after the invention of fire. Since shrimp has always been plentiful and easy to catch in all oceans in the world, it was a “go to” source of food for these early societies. When the ancient Chinese started boiling and adding salt to shrimp, they quickly figured out that drying it was the easiest way to preserve it. When dried, shrimp does not ever spoil. Dried shrimp may possibly be the safest food source known to man. If you keep it dry, you have a safe product to cook and eat that last indefinitely.
Throughout history, the dried shrimp industry has advanced with time. Before the modern shrimp shelling machine, shrimp were dried on wooden platforms (about the size of a football field) built five or six feet above the marshland. The people who lived and worked on these platforms would catch and boil the shrimp. After boiling, the shrimp were spread out on the platforms to dry in the sun. When drying was complete, they would start walking and trampling on the shrimp. This was known as “The Shrimp Dance”. This crazy Cajun method was tactical because it removes the heads and shells from the meaty part of the shrimp. When the dance complete, everything was scooped up in large shovels and tossed into the wind. The wind would blow the shells and heads away and the meat would fall back into the shovel. The meat portion was sacked and ready to ship to market. Around 1920, Shelly Bergeron and Fred Chauvin (T-Fred) invented the shrimp shelling machine. This machine eliminated the dance along with the tossing, thus saving time and labor.
Louis Blum, Sr. invented and patented the shrimp drying machine. This machine is used to dry shrimp today. It is cost saving, sanitary, and the most efficient way to dry shrimp. He invented the drying machine because the cost of shrimp was rising due to competition from the canned and frozen shrimp industries. It saves cost because there is no loss of batches of shrimp. Waiting for Mother Nature to provide sunny weather to dry the shrimp became outdated. It’s sanitary because it eliminated the need to dry the shrimp outside. This process meets all current Board of Health standards. The shrimp drying machine only takes around 6 hours to dry shrimp, as opposed to days when left drying using the sun. The shrimp canning industry could not compete with this new technology and, as a result, is now gone in Louisiana. Louis is credited with saving the dried shrimp industry with his drying machine.
With a thorough knowledge of shrimp drying machinery, the current generation of Blums have modified the drying machine to meet current food and health standards. They also help operators who dry shrimp meet these standards. We take great pride in helping our operators, customers, and even our competition solve issues with meeting or exceeding the government standards for dried shrimp. We have invented or made most of mechanical devices used in the business. We helped write the Hazard Analysis & Critical Control Points (HACCP) used in this industry to meet the government requirements for contamination (chemical or sanitary) in dried shrimp. If anyone has questions or concerns with machinery, salt, moisture content, etc. they can call us for answers and solutions. We have always helped everyone with our knowledge about Louisiana dried shrimp. We don’t care who it is, we will always help. We feel a responsibility to everyone who catches, makes, sells, and consumes dried shrimp from Louisiana. Louisiana dried shrimp is unique because of its size, color, and taste. We know that Louisiana produces the best dried shrimp in the world and our family has helped to make it that way. We continually strive to improve both production and market conditions, while helping everyone involved.
Our predecessors built an industry that survived both World Wars and thrived during the Great Depression. It endured the Communist takeover of China and Cuba, two of the biggest consumers of dried shrimp at that time. We have also survived countless hurricanes. Recently, the seafood industry has rebuilt from 4 hurricanes which devastated the coast of Louisiana destroying communities and businesses. The industry has persisted through the catastrophic effects of the Mercado Oil Spill. We are proud of our heritage, and give thanks to the many generations of people in the dried shrimp industry who have contributed to the business’ longevity.
We are fortunate that shrimp are plentiful in the Gulf of Mexico. This allows everyone involved in the Louisiana dried shrimp industry to have the confidence that we can maintain control of business. We will always continue to encourage our fellow shrimpers and producers to market the best quality dried shrimp products. The Blum family is proud of the leadership we have kept in this wonderful industry.