A Fresh Take On Something Rotten

mv5bzwu4mdfhntctztc4ms00zwizlwi2n2mtzja4nmixmti2otc0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymjiwnti1mtm-_v1_sy1000_cr006741000_al_Due to a growing love of bees, this past summer I read the book Bee Time: Lessons from the Hive by Mark L. Winston.  Not only was it an interesting read, but it was an informative one as well.  Part of what I learned from this book was about the shadier side of the global honey market, and since then I have only been purchasing local and/or certified Canadian honey.  When I saw the trailer for Netflix’s Rotten I was instantly hooked as it looked like the show would be delving into that darker side of the honey industry and I was curious to learn more.  Each of the six different episodes in this series look at different parts of the food industry from an American point of view, showcasing the rotten side of honey, peanuts, garlic, chicken, milk, and fish.

“Lawyers, Guns and Honey” – This was the episode that I was watching the series for and boy was it worth it.  This was easily my favourite episode out of the six (although that is most likely because this is the one I mainly wanted to see).  I got all of the information I was expecting to get regarding the global honey market, as well as some interesting extra information along the way.  The main takeaway from this episode is that not all “honey” is actually honey as some larger foreign companies will dilute it with syrups and sugars.  I also found it fascinating to learn about the science behind detecting this counterfeit honey.

“The Peanut Problem” – This episode terrified me.  Personally, it was the most moving as it focused on the issues surrounding peanut allergies, and a lot of what came up hit close to home as my younger sister has life threatening food allergies.  A good deal of the episode focused on allergies as a whole and what that means for the food industry – as a relative of an allergy sufferer and a long time employee of the food service industry the content of this episode felt both personal and informative.  It was also really scary to hear about the restaurants that did not necessarily take severe peanut allergies seriously.  This one certainly had the biggest impact on me.

“Garlic Breath” – Prior to watching this episode, I was already aware of some of the stories circling around that warn against buying Chinese garlic.  Watching this, I did not hear the stories I was expecting to hear.  In fact, I learned completely new information about the garlic industry that not only made me rethink Chinese garlic, but American garlic as well.  The companies, both large and small, involved in this episode made the garlic industry look more like a crime syndicate than an food industry.  I was not expecting what I learned from this episode but it was definitely eye opening.

“Big Bird” – In my opinion, the following episodes were a little weaker than the first three.  The final three episodes are not bad, I just didn’t necessarily find them as powerful as the first three.  The beginning and end of this episode on the chicken industry was very moving and really made me feel for the chicken farmers, but they lost me in the middle.  Also, given the somewhat recent stories of chicken abuse I had seen in the news, that was what I was expecting to see in this episode.  Once again, Rotten surprised me by shedding light on problems in this industry that I had never even heard of before.

“Milk Money” – Once again, I was bracing for stories of animal cruelty, but that is not at all what I got.  I had no idea there was so much drama and controversy in the milk industry.  This episode showcased two major issues surrounding milk – financial problems, and raw milk.  Given the tone of the show, the analysis of the financial side of this industry was not at all surprising and it was the look at raw milk that I found the most interesting.  I did not know all that much about raw milk, but it was interesting to learn about its place in the market given the history of milk – and it was also very interesting to learn about the controversy, and the dangers, surrounding raw milk.

“Cod Is Dead” – Perhaps not the strongest episode to end the series on, but it was still very interesting.  As a lover of marine life, and a lover of having fish for dinner, I am one of those people who wants there to be sustainable and responsible fishing practices.  I want to keep eating the food I enjoy, but I also think the worlds oceans and marine life need to be better taken care of.  This episode really gave me a lot to think about, although I got the sense by the end that there is still a lot of uncertainty in this industry and that things could easily get worse if not properly dealt with.

All in all, this is an informative and responsible show.  Each episode showcases multiple opinions – those of larger and international corporations, those of smaller and local companies, and sometimes even those of the consumers.  For each issue brought to the forefront, Rotten presents multiple sides and viewpoints.  Although on the surface the show does not appear to pick sides, there are a few issues where it is a little obvious as to which side the producer believes is right or wrong.  That being said, because all points of view are presented, there is a sense that the show is still trying to remain as objective as possible.

As consumers, I think it is important for us to know where our food comes from – whether or not we actually do anything with that information is each individual person’s choice.  I personally consume all six food items showcased in this documentary mini series and I have listened to all of the information presented.  For some of these food items, I was pleased to discover that I already appear to be on the right path as far as my choices as a consumer go.  For other food items, this has prompted me to reconsider what I will be purchasing when I go grocery shopping.  I don’t think I will be making any drastic lifestyle choices because of this show, but the odd change here or there might actually do some good both for me and for that particular industry.  This is has been a really informative television experience and I would be interested to learn more about other parts of the food industry if Netflix sees fit to continue the series.

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