Bottomfeeder : a seafood lover's journey to the end of the food chain

by Taras Grescoe

Paper Book, 2008


An eye-opening look at aquaculture that does for seafood what Fast Food Nation did for beef. Dividing his sensibilities between Epicureanism and ethics, Taras Grescoe set out on a nine-month, worldwide search for a delicious--and humane--plate of seafood. What he discovered shocked him. From North American Red Lobsters to fish farms and research centers in China, Bottomfeeder takes readers on an illuminating tour through the $55-billion-dollar-a-year seafood industry. Grescoe examines how out-of-control pollution, unregulated fishing practices, and climate change affect what ends up on our plate. More than a screed against a multibillion-dollar industry, however, this is also a balanced and practical guide to eating, as Grescoe explains to readers which fish are best for our environment, our seas, and our bodies. At once entertaining and illuminating, Bottomfeeder is a thoroughly enjoyable look at the world's cuisines and an examination of the fishing and farming practices we too easily take for granted.… (more)



Call number



New York : Bloomsbury USA, 2008.

User reviews

LibraryThing member detailmuse
Bottomfeeder is the seafood equivalent of Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Its main premise: as the purchase price of a seafood decreases, the environmental and health costs skyrocket … and humane practices and sustainability plummet.

Densely written, it's more travelogue and foodie
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memoir than science; it’s also an interesting primer on global culture, politics, and business. Each chapter explores the history and current state of one type of fish or seafood (e.g. bluefin tuna, cod, lobster, oyster, salmon, shrimp) ... and most chapters include some version of Grescoe’s despairing lament: “Cheap [name your seafood], I now knew, was a meal I could no longer afford.”

But so as to not give up entirely, the concluding section includes resources for making good-for-you, good-for-the-planet seafood choices -- including pocket reference guides and even websites that are searchable by cell phone while you peruse the menu at your favorite restaurant.
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LibraryThing member jnavia
This is a real eye-opener about where our seafood comes from and how its future is in jeopardy. Ever wonder how Red Lobster gets sooooo many shrimp to feed soooo many people all over the country? And ever wonder why those shriimp all exactly (pretty much) the same size?

Surely you've heard that
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salmon is plentiful because there are salmon farms. Want to learn how gross those farms are? Read this book.

Luckily, as a seafood lover, Grescoe writes about sustainable fish populations and does give very good, clear direction about what sorts of fish -- what species, and how and where they are fished or produced -- one can eat without feeling like one is contributing to the eventual demise of species, and isn't harming one's health with too much mercury, antibiotics or other nasty chemicals.

I loved reading about Grescoe's adventures in eating seafood around the world. Descriptions of sardines made my mouth water, descriptions of pufferfish made me recoil. This is an adventure in eating good food, and an education in how (as the subtitle says) to eat ethically in a world of vanishing seafood. I hope everyone who eats a lot of seafood will read it.
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LibraryThing member NeedMoreShelves
Taras Grescoe is a seafood lover. He is a piscatarian - he has eliminated meat an poultry from his diet, which means he pretty much eats seafood every day. He has also become increasingly concerned about the increasing reports that some seafood can be dangerous to your health, and the methods of
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harvesting seafood can be extremely dangerous to the global enviroment. So, Grescoe decides to find out for himself - he embarks on a world tour, talking to fish catchers, fish farmers, fish sellers, fish cookers, fish eaters, fish suppliers, and fish lovers from all points of the globe. He eats some pretty amazing meals, and comes away with a different perspective on eating seafood.

This book was fascinating. I live in Iowa, where we don't have a huge variety of native seafood, so much of the information in the book was completely new to me. Grescoe explains some of the reasons many fisheries are nearing collapse - overfishing, bad methods of fishing, and fish farming have resulted in a large number of fish that are on the verge of being commercially extinct. He also explains that many famous chefs, by continuing to insist on offering these nearly extinct fish on their menus, are contributing to the demand for them worldwide, leading to more bad fishing methods and overfishing.

He explains the concept of trophic levels, which is the number assigned to every living thing on earth based on what they consume. Phytoplankton are given a 1, and a human is given a 5. He then shows that fish at the highest trophic levels - tuna, cod, Chilean sea bass, shark - are the ones that are most often overfished, and often contain the most contaminants. He then presents the concept of bottomfeeding - eating the fish at lower trophic levels, such as halibut, mackerel, oysters, and trout. These fish have fewer contaminants, making them healthier for us, and are generally harvested in sustainable ways, making them healthier for the environment as well. At the end of the book, he offers several pages of resources designed to assist consumers in making more ethical seafood choices.

Grescoe's book is not only interesting, but incredibly entertaining. He does a great job of bringing the many characters he meets on his travels to life. His ability to capture the flavor of the meal he is eating made it easy to put myself in his place. I also appreciated his honesty about many of the internal struggles he experienced - wanting to eat something delicious, but knowing the dangerous or unethical way it was harvested. It is rare to enjoy reading a book that teaches me so much, but this book offered both entertainment and enlightenment, and I am very glad I was able to read it.
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LibraryThing member silverheron
By Taras Grescoe
I was really looking forward to reading this book and I was not disappointed. When it comes to eating seafood responsibly I have always felt at a loss for information. First of all I grew up in North Eastern Ohio and the only “local” fish there came from Lake Erie
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and there was a time that no one would eat fish from Lake Erie. I also am allergic to just about every kind of shell fish. So beyond the Gortons Fisherman my palate is unrefined to say the least. After reading this book I have a much better understanding of how the oceans of our world are being affected by the lack of understanding on the part of most of its people. This book, over the course of 10 chapters takes the reader through the problems facing our most endangered species of fish as well as the many reasons why these fish are endangered. It is not one simple problem but the answer is actually not that difficult to implement even though it is not popular every where. The answer is being informed and not accepting practices that are destroying our oceans. If we don’t buy products that are not ethically produced there will be no market for them. I liked the fact that every chapter had a focus on a specific fish and its ecosystem. What the challenges were for that ecosystem and what could be done about it. Because of this chapter by chapter approach when I want to reference the book again in the future I will have a much easier time finding the information I need. It seems to me after reading this book that the two main culprits in the problems facing our oceans is ignorant indiffference on the part of the consumer and the greed of those that see the ocean as a source of income and not a way of life. I will never look at seafood the same way again. While I am not a big seafood consumer myself I now want to explore eating the fishes that are sustainable and incorporate them into my family’s diet. After all fish is brain food. I liked this book a lot even though it was not a fast read. I had to work my way through each chapter because it was filled with so much information. The author does include a good index in the back as well as an appendix to resources. There also is a section on which fish to eat and which to avoid. My only real complaint is that I wish it had a good recipe for sardines.
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LibraryThing member satyridae
Searing indictment of the seafood industry. Well-written, informative but not without hope. There are also fascinating descriptions of strange and wonderful foods the author has eaten- including the pellets fed to farmed salmon (not very tasty, believe it or not).

I found that much of what I thought
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I knew about seafood was wrong, especially farmed fish.

If you eat any sort of fish at all, you really ought to read this book.
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LibraryThing member epersonae
Amazing, if discouraging. A tour of fishing around the world, with each chapter focusing on a specific food and location. So: sardines in the Mediterranean, shrimp in India, salmon in BC, bluefin tuna in Japan, etc. He treats his subjects, both fish and human, with sensitivity. Great descriptive
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language of both the horrible and the sublime.

There's a useful appendix about fishing methods (good, bad, ugly), and specific fish (never, sometimes, always) -- shrimp and tuna in particular come off very poorly.

Very highly recommended!
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Original publication date



1596912251 / 9781596912250
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