Blood, Sweat and Takeaways

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Blood, Sweat and Takeaways

Photo by Christian Cable


I don’t often watch television programs and that could be as a result of my strict upbringing or it could just be that shows like Big Brother turn me off watching commercial TV.

Nevertheless, when you have Foxtel (thanks Ben for hooking us up) there will be times when you stumble across a TV show that is so insightful and eye-opening that it renders you addicted. For me, one such show is Blood, Sweat and Takeaways in which six Englishmen and women experience life as typical food process workers in Asia. The whole premise of the show is to help these Westerners understand the human side of the food industry and to help them appreciate where their food comes from.

One episode I watched involved the Westerners in Thailand working in a tuna factory which involved catching the fish, gutting the fish and removing the flesh off the bones. They’d work in the same warm conditions as the Thai workers, work for a whole day to performance and quality targets and they were subjected to the company rules in which they were not allowed to talk during their shift. At the end of the day, they would then receive the average daily wage for a Thai worker, which would be equivalent to something like five dollars per day. You’d watch the Westerners complain about their living conditions (poor bathroom facilities, not enough air-conditioning, too many lizards) and they’d complain about the work (unrealistic targets, not enough pay, not enough praise) and you instantly empathise with the workers and what they have to do to earn a living in this world. One of the English girls quips “You don’t have a choice here. If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” And how true this is in a lot of places on Earth.

What I’ve learned through watching this show is that pitying the workers is not helpful. They do what they have to do to get by, put food on the table and put a roof over their family’s heads. I know enough about Asia (I was born in the Philippines and have travelled to other countries like China, Thailand and Indonesia) to know that these workers consider themselves fortunate to have a job. Where they come from, being jobless is shameful and creates even more problems for the family so earning a pittance is better than earning nothing at all.

What I’ve also picked up from watching the show is that I have to make better decisions when it comes to the food I purchase. I need to learn more about where my food comes from. I need to make choices to purchase fair trade food and produce. And where possible, I need to purchase food locally produced in Australia.

So if you care to understand how others work and live in other parts of the world and want to watch something thought-provoking, I recommend Blood, Sweat and Takeaways. You not only learn to appreciate what you have, but you are humbled to know that if these people can still be happy when they have so little, than in comparison, you should be overjoyed when you have so much!

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