I had always assumed that all shrimp were peeled by hand. Because how could anyone build a machine to peel shrimp? You can’t build a machine to peel shrimp. Shrimp are small, fragile, and slippery. Furthermore, the peeling process is complex. You have to grip those little shrimp legs and pull them in a slightly circular fashion to remove the shell. Removing the tail involves a strong reverse grip and the right amount of torque. It’s all very tedious. Until you have a hands-on experience with a pound of shrimp, you won’t understand how tedious the process can be.
Before 1949, trained human hands cleaned all shrimp: washing, peeling, de-assing, de-tailing, and butterflying. This process was so time-consuming that the shrimp industry was unable to reach its growth potential, at least not until 1949.
No one considered automating the task. That is, not until J.M. Lapeyre burst onto the shrimp market scene. While working at his father’s shrimp plant in Louisiana, J.M. inadvertently stepped on a shrimp with his rubber boot. Suddenly a rocket of shrimp meat was jettisoned into the air. Then, a gentle hush settled over those working in the plant. The mid-air projectile was unequivocally a completely deshelled shrimp ripe for cooking purposes, and deshelled in .36 seconds. Subsequent boot-to-shrimp-to-floor tests yielded the same results.
The obvious conclusion that J.M. could have made was to retrain everyone to step on shrimp. But no, J.M. was brilliant; he took it one step further, and thought, “Why not automate this task? I’m going to take a shit-load of shrimp and put them in my mom’s washing machine and throw in a boot for good measure.”
After much trial and error, J.M. developed the first automated shrimp peeler. This would later evolve into the de-tailer, the de-asser, and the butterflyer. Laitram Machinery, Inc.’s success is a testament to the accomplishments of J.M. Lapeyre and his successors that shared a vision for shrimp. A shrimp historian once said, “J.M. felt he had a responsibility to the shrimp peeling industry. He grew up with it, saw a need to do things better and went ahead and did it.”
In conclusion, your college years are a waste. Too bad you’re not as smart as J.M. Lapeyre.