Methodological Appendix and Summary Report
SOAN 247 Political Economy of Food
Commodity Chain Analysis: Sushi and Bluefin Tuna
Casey Nelson and Oliver Brandt
In our final project, we looked at both a case-study bluefin tuna production and
distribution as one component of sushi, and at the broader perspective on the production of
meaning and culture through sushi. Initially, we were inspired to look into the sushi restaurants
in Portland, but in the end we found it useful to explore the sushi commodity chain from both
micro- to macro- and vice versa. In the first phase of the project we created two discontinuous C-
Maps, titled “From Sea to Sushi” and “From Sushi to Sea.” For this final presentation, we have
attempted to merge the two, filling in the gaps as needed.
We had difficulty finding and navigating the information about bluefin tuna catch
because there are few sources that explicate the tuna fishing industry. The tuna fishing industry is
an international one with no intergovernmental regulatory body; and thus, we found that statistics
were often particular to a certain region of fishing or fleet of boats and the various information
we found contradicted itself at times. In addition to this, most of the information about
processing and distribution came from True World Foods, one of the largest suppliers of sushi in
the country. We acknowledge the limitations of relying heavily on one website and one set of
publications for information about catch and distribution. This may be problematic, but it is the
only readily available form of information.
New literature (such as Issenberg 2007 and Bestor 2007), focuses on the expansion of the
sushi market and consumption trend in the United States. There is ample information about these
concepts and we therefore concentrated the second section of our project on outlining the
production of meaning and culture behind the increasing sushi consumption in the United States.
We created an additional C-Map, which is more in the spirit of a social timeline of sushi,
beginning with its introduction from Japan and ending with overfishing, new demands in
production, and new technology applied to sushi. Here we include an outline of the major themes
of our two final C-Maps and then provide a bibliography for our work.
1) Bluefin Tuna Background/ Production, Distribution and Market Control
-There are three species of bluefin tunas with a broad geographic range
-Bluefins and other tuna species are rapidly becoming extinct
-Processing and Distribution and
-Market domination by True World Foods
2) The Cultural Life of Sushi in the U.S.
-interest in the health benefits and trendiness
-creating market niches, re-ethicizing, mass production
-regions become accustom to sushi and sushi adapts to fit regional preference
-pronounced increase of sushi consumption and popularity in the U.S.
-increased demand for sushi alters production and has new implications for the market
Armstrong, Elizabeth Moore
2006. “Holy Mackerel! Guess who controls Portland’s sushi supply?” June 14 Willamette
2001. “Supply-Side Sushi: Commodity, Market, and the Global City,” American Anthropologist
2000. “How Sushi Went Global.” Foreign Policy.
2007. “Biting into Sushi: a look at the latest trends in sushi, its growth in poularity over the years
and the outlook for the sushi industry.” Dec 14. Accessed at
2007. The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket. New York: Harper
Eng, Monica, Delroy Alexander and David Jackson
2006. “Sushi and Rev. Moon: How Americans’ growing appetite for sushi is helping to support
his controversial church. April 11. The Chicago Tribune. Accessed at
2007. “Blue C Sushi restaurants use new technology to track who’s eating what, when” Seattle:
Puget Sound Business Journal.
Fish Base. Accessed at www.fishbase.org
2007. The Sushi Economy: Globalization and the Making of a Modern Delicacy. New York:
2007. “Sushi 101.” ABC World News. Accessed at
------. The World’s Thriving Sushi Business: The Popularity of Sushi Overseas. Accessed at
Monterey Bay Aquarium
Seafood Watch. Accessed at
2003. “Sushi has gone from being an imported rarity to part of everyday American cuisine.”
----- .“Sushi is ideal healthy diets,”. Health Guidance for Better Health.
1999. Sushi’s Raw Appeal: Japanese delicacy emerges as a ubiquitous U.S. treat. Dec 1. San
Francisco Chronicle. Accessed at http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-
True World Foods. Accessed at www.trueworldfoods.com
2005. “More than just raw fish… It’s cooked sushi.”USAWeekend.com. Accessed at