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Beyond Data

For the past decade Beyond Data Podcast host Ret Talbot has been a freelance journalist and science writer reporting on fisheries at the intersection of science and sustainability. He frequently uses the hashtag #datamatter because, well, they do. But what happens when the data simply don’t exist, are insufficient or unavailable? What happens when so-called alternative facts are considered just facts and people operate under the impression that the plural of anecdote is indeed data? How do we reach consensus when everyone espouses his or her own data—his or her own facts? In the Beyond Data Podcast, Talbot and his guests go where he's often been unwilling to go in his reporting--beyond data.

Nov 28, 2017

The second episode of the Beyond Data Podcast airing later this month takes a deep dive into meal kit delivery services and how they are shaping the sustainable seafood space. 

The data show that eating more seafood is good for you, especially when cooked at home, but Americans often hesitate to buy it outside of a restaurant setting. In part, that’s because cooking fish at home can be daunting, but there are also plenty of other reasons why people may avoid the seafood counter.

A growing number of Americans want to know where their food originates for reasons ranging from health to socio-economic and environmental sustainability. When it comes to seafood, a lack of transparency makes it difficult to source seafood with confidence. 

Meal kit delivery services like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh and Sun Basket are uniquely positioned to radically change Americans’ relationship to seafood. These services remove many of the barriers to cooking fish at home by providing step-by-step directions and precisely measured ingredients—ingredients that they frequently claim are sustainable.

The leading meal kit delivery services talk a lot about how they are reinventing what they see as a broken food system in America. In the case of seafood, they frequently talk about how the meal kit can connect consumers with domestic, sustainably harvested and farmed fish and shellfish, which is a big deal considering that upwards of 90% of the seafood Americans consume is imported from countries lacking both the sustainability and food safety regulations to which US fisheries and farms adhere.

While this certainly sounds good on the surface, some industry observers wonder if it’s too good to be true, especially given the competitive nature of the space and some of the challenges meal kit delivery services are encountering. Are there data to back-up the sustainability claims made by these companies—claims that are often front and center in marketing materials aimed at sustainably-minded consumers, who increasingly make up a larger percentage of their target audience? What does it mean when Blue Apron claims “100% sustainable seafood” or when Hello Fresh uses the word “sustainable” more than 600 times on its website?

I’m Ret Talbot, inviting you to join my guests and me when we go beyond the data and take a deep dive into meal kit delivery services and sustainable seafood in the next episode of the Beyond Data Podcast coming this Thursday to Apple podcasts or wherever you get your podcasts. I hope you’ll join us, and, if you missed Episode 1 on New York’s oyster toadfish fishery, this would be a great time to give it a listen and subscribe so every episode of the Beyond Data Podcast will be delivered to you automatically.

Voices from This Episode

PBS NewsHour's Judy Woodruff  [0:01]

WKBN27's Amanda Smith [0:07]

Sun Basket's Chef Justine Kelly [0:11]

Inside Edition's Deborah Norville  [0:30]

CBS News contributor Katie Lee  [0:36]

Chef Alexander Papetsas of New York City's Kellari Taverna on Inside Edition  [0:43]

CBS News correspondent John Blackstone  [0:49]

Annie Kelly of The Guardian  [0:54]

Blue Apron Advertisement [1:35]

FishPeople Seafood's Ken Plasse [2:54]

Music: "Xi" by Andy G. Cohen