University of Antarctica

Restaurant Food: A Special Report

Narian Katt

UNIVERSITY PEAK, ANT – Outrage over where our food comes from has hit a boiling point.

When I was tasked in journalism last month to break a story, I wanted to look into the restaurant business on campus. Because I used to work in a restaurant, I knew something about it. In addition, this campus now has a very large, very popular restaurant called Navoyka that refused to hire me from the Cafe.

Behind the Great View is a Dirty Secret

"I wonder what's in the food, but never thought to ask because I thought it would be rude," reports Rachelle Olivius, a junior and frequenter of the restaurant. When asked to discuss the sources of their food, chef manager Gaeton had this to say: "Everything you eat here, and I mean everything, absolutely everything, is of the highest quality available. This is the only 4-star restaurant on this continent, and why you would target it for an investigation must be beyond my powers of logical reasoning."

Chef Gaeton

Resistance like that came often during my interviews. The resistance also came in many forms, from a staff member who said he would lose his job if he said the wrong thing to the press, to Mr. Gaeton himself, who denied the sources of food for the restaurant were suspect. So I had to take matters into my own hands and find out the truth, for the good of the community, because that's what good journalism is all about.

What I found was disgusting. I did research online into the fish farms of the upworld, and apparently the animals experience cruelty regularly. The fish in China, for example, farm raised, are kept in such close quarters that they don't have any room to breathe and sometimes die of asphixiation in the water. They literally run out of oxygen because the other fish take it all. Imagine if you were in a class and the doors and windows were sealed shut, and the other students all of a sudden and the professor were competing with you for oxygen, as the CO2 level rose steadily in the room? It would be a nightmare. Those who used to be your friends and classmates would now be stealing your oxygen. Then you know who your true friends are, and the answer is none of them are your true friends. They are all suffocating you. Thinking about it in those terms is the only way humans can imagine what the fish go through in a fish farm.

Dead Fish at a Fish Farm in China                 Fish Farm People in Thailand    

Junior Brie O'Brian used to work with me at the Cafe. I asked her to comment on the food there, and how she thinks it got there. She said, "The idea that people just stand there and sort of sort out the catch of the day, is pretty gross. By the time it gets to us, everything is in little bags inside of boxes, and we really just unfreeze it and heat it up. When it thaws out we cook it up and serve it. I never thought about where it comes from initially, but when we get it, its already been on a long journey."

Brie was right. But how long is a long journey? Well, the food in the Cafe comes from Asia, because I snuck back into the freezer and looked at the boxes. It comes from Thailand, North Korea and Burma especially. I called the importer, who said: "Around 90 percent of our fish, shrimp and manatee is imported, yes. This is because our waters are too cold for most of your table seafood to thrive in, so we look north to Asia."

Was that true? I had to find out, so I suited up and disappeared under the ice. When I reemerged under the shelf, I found a bizarre variety of creatures, none of which I knew even existed.

Going to find out for myself                   What I found was astonishing

But the man on the phone was right, there were no shrimp or talapia or tunafish. How does this effect us? How safe is this kind of imported fish farm food? A Business Insider expose discovered the following:

  • Tilapia in China's fish farms, are fed pig and goose manure — even though it contains salmonella and makes the tilapia "more susceptible to disease."
  • In Vietnam, farmed shrimp bound for the Antarctica market are kept fresh with heaps of ice made from tap water that teems with pathogenic bacteria. 
  • Bloomberg also notes that at the same company "there’s trash on the floor, and flies crawl over baskets of processed shrimp stacked in an unchilled room."
  • Asia's shrimp farmers rely heavily on antibiotics, many of which are banned for use in Antarctica.
  • In May, ABC News bought 30 samples of imported farmed shrimp from across the United States and had them tested for antibiotic traces. The result: Three of the samples contained detectable levels of these dangerous antibiotics.
  • According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a quarter of the food-borne illness outbreaks caused by imported food from 2010 to 2012 involved seafood — more than any other food commodity.

Two days ago, I contacted a fish farm in the Philippines and they said they had had a famine in which a plague went around that killed 80 percent of the talapia fish they were harvesting, some of which was bound for UANT. A similar condition was barely averted in North Korea when a Russian consultant dumped antibiotics into the tank just in time.

  Dead fish farming in the Philippines     A worker pouring antibiotics into the tank  

The North Korean facility raises cod and shrimp for the Cafe at UANT, but no one would tell me about where the Navoyka got its fish, so I had to investigate further. Mr. Gaeton refused to answer my emails, and each time I went to the restaurant to confront him directly, he bushed me aside, saying he was "busy." But what about the other animals on the menu at Navoyka? I was surprised to see some rare items there, and online research showed some of them are on the endangered species list. I went to Prof. Torgerson, an economist. "West Indian Manatee? There are only around 800 of them, so why they are on the menu I don't know", he said.

Mr. Gaeton answered Torgerson's call to the restaurant. He said, "As the menu states, these manatee specimins are farm raised in Burma, not harvested from the Caribbean Sea. I can assure you of the utmost quality of life and condition for them in Burma." Was he telling the truth? I called the Burmese manatee farm and must give credit where credit is due. Though I disagree with eating endangered species and manatees especially, Mr. Gaeton was right. The manatee farm had very good life conditions.

Burmese Manatee Farm                                    Who's next for harvesting?

I was very impressed with the photos they sent me for this article, and appreciated their quick response. The manatees swim in crystal clear clean water donated by the Evian company of France. They are fed romaine lettuce because it has more nutrients than regular iceberg, and are maintained by people who have adopted aquatic looks in order to make the manatees feel more comfortable in their ample tank, which is more like a giant aquapark. They are used to the people and believe they belong there in the farm tank as much as any other animal.

International observers are able to monitor feeding and living conditions at the manatee farm

In conclusion, I think you get what you pay for. If you go to the Campus Cafe, where most of the students eat, unfortunately, and eat the talapia, its not going to be a product that is free of chemicals and had a good life when it was alive. If you go to the Navoyka Restaurant and order Manatee Rangoon, you will probably be eating something that had a much better life, based on my research about Burma and fish farming in general.

Narian Katt is a journalism junior. If you feel threatened in or around campus, contact the ESCORT Service. UANT NewsCentre 1 is an official service created by voters in 2003.


Media Contacts:

Bill Capote, NewsCenter 1 Director,
Email Bill Capote 


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