This month, Netflix released yet another original series, this one called Rotten. Unlike all of the Marvel and DC Comics television shows, Rotten takes us through the different parts of corruption and fraud in the food industry. For each of the six episodes, the producers take on a different part of the industry - from bee and honey production, the peanut allergy problem, to the vast issues plaguing the fishery industries. For the purposes of our theme, I watched the sixth episode - “Cod is Dead.”
How we produce food is inextricably related to what the state of the environment is. Particularly in the United States, food production is intertwined with many of the issues that face the American public. Overfishing or trying to take more than the environment can give means that the food industry often takes shortcuts, such as bypassing regulations. With markets like that of the United States which consumes five billion pounds of seafood a year, there’s incentivization to take those shortcuts on a regular basis.
Due to climate change, the oceans of the world are facing higher rates of salt in the water- leading to less diversity and fewer fish. Rotten’s sixth episode focuses on the fishing industry, discussing the global fishing crisis - and how overfishing links the issue of environmental policy to food production regulation. In other words, everything is so closely interrelated that should one block change, the rest will also fall.
One aspect that the episode talked about was the issue of privatizing fish and the deep division between fishermen and scientists. Throughout the latter half of the twentieth century, the American government began to increase regulation and set a total allowable catch on the East Coast, dividing that amount among big and small boats in “catch shares” in order to protect fish populations. Iceland also implemented this measure 15 years earlier - and ended up killing their small boat industry although the cod population went up. But how does that square with fewer fishermen and jobs? Answer: For small fishery owners, it doesn’t.
Rotten is a great way to expand your own knowledge of the inner workings of the food industry while understanding the connections between climate change and what is considered “normal.” What I personally took away from the documentary was that food production is not transparent at all. Unless you go out of your way to learn about the fish industry, you will never know about the divisive history of regulation nor the crisis that spurred on what we see in our grocery stores today.
Check out the trailer below and let us know your favorite episode!
If you are at all interested in the lives of celebrity chefs, then you have heard of Anthony Bourdain. From his many books to his film and television productions, he has moved from being a chef to a producer of food media. In his most recent work, he tackles the issue of food waste. His newest movie is titled: Wasted! The Story of Food Waste. As can be gleaned from the title, the documentary follows the different aspects of how we as a society waste food. Bourdain make it a point to say he hates being an advocate, but the movie doesn’t actually focus on him all that much. Instead, it looks at each stage of food production and consumption to show just how much food we waste.
Where do you think your food waste goes? How long do you think it takes for a head of lettuce to decompose in a landfill? I can guarantee you that it’s longer than the time it takes for it to decompose in your compost.
What makes Wasted the film to watch isn’t just that it opens your eyes to how much food we waste, but positive measures that are being done to address it. Even though Bourdain (in his own words) would have preferred to guilt us all into saving food and consuming it with care - the film is very uplifting. All around the world, innovation are taking shape to solve this problem. In Japan and Korea, food waste is not only measured by household, it is put into the mouths of livestock and reused. An elementary school in New Orleans teaches children how to grow food and how not to waste it. Celebrity chefs make an appearance took, from Mario Batali to Massimo Bottura, to explain to us why we need to stop wasting food.
We don’t necessarily think about the relationship that our society has with food. After watching this film, I admittedly am driven to think about my own habits in wasting food. It’s a global problem that extends from how we make food to how we eat it. Luckily there are small ways we can all contribute. Plan your grocery shopping, use more food scraps, compost, put some thought into how you treat your food after you’ve finished eating it and read more tips here.