Minimum size for a king prawn? Take a deep breath…

The Fish Society | 17.01.2014

Sent: 17 January 2014 11:36
Subject: King Prawns

Good Morning the Fish Society,

I have just discovered your excellent web site and I have already e-mailed your PDF catalogue to my son in the UK. As you are undoubted experts in fish I wonder if you can help me please ? I am in discussion with a leading UK supermarket over the size of the “King Prawns” in one of their pre-cooked curry meals. We live in France and are used to having prawns sold by the size calibre, as I am sure you will know. The prawns in the curry were curled up, on their side, nose to tail, resembling a coin. The diameter of each was approx 2.5cm /1 in. They were described as “King Prawns” on the packaging. We bought ordinary prawns in our local French Supermarket, and they were approx 3.5 cm diameter.

So what in the UK constitutes a King Prawn ? As in the description on your site, I was expecting something similar to a Dublin Bay/Tiger Prawn. Is the size widely variable and is it based on a quantity per kilo? I would appreciate any info you can possibly give me please.

Many thanks
Graham D


Hello Graham,

Quick reaction:
1) The French are much more sophisticated about fish than the Brits so French supermarkets can take fewer liberties

2) The term king prawn is used as a catchall for several species of prawns – typically the prawns grown in SE Asia (and elsewhere especially S America). (It would not properly be used foir Dublin Bay prawns which are an altogether different item.)

3) The legal definition of king prawn in the UK is:
King prawn: This description can only be used where the prawns are of the species and size given below:-

  • all species of the family Palaemonidae
  • all species of the family Penaeidae
  • all species of the family Aristaeidae

Where the count is:-

less than 123 per kg (head on/shell on) or
less than 198 per kg (head off/shell on) or
less than 242 per kg (head off/shell off) …. that would be 4 grams per prawn…

I would expect that your one inch king prawn would on this basis come in as a king prawn.
I would say that needing to point to the legal definition of a KP rather than the common sense definition is not going to do one’s reputation much good, and the UK supermarket is having a laugh, but most UK consumers are not going to get too worked about it.

Hope that helps.
James Smith

Cooked King Prawns

Next Smoked fish customer day

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