Author:Emily Yates-Doerr (University of Amsterdam)
Paper short abstract:
This paper, which draws upon longterm research in the Guatemalan highlands and ongoing fieldwork with global health nutritionists in Europe, examines diverse valuations of meat to call into question the divisions drawn between feast and famine, and necessity and desire.
Paper long abstract:
It appears obvious— at least it is taken as fact within the public health nutrition community: the global demand for meat is on the rise. According to the dominant narrative, when middle class consumers from developing countries get a 'taste of meat' they (naturally) want more of it. In order to meet the demand, intensified agricultural production systems become necessary. Since meat is, by many accounts, a rich source of nutrients, and since many in the world are malnourished, there would seem to be a harmonious balance. Except, it has not worked out this way in practice. In response to a purported growing global demand, the substance of meat - as with the lives of the animals that provide it - changes form. This change becomes traced to and through human bodies; as concern about metabolic illnesses becomes widespread, micronutrient malnourishment and myriad forms of hunger persist. This paper, which draws upon long term ethnography in the Guatemalan highlands and ongoing fieldwork with global health nutritionists in Europe, follows the material lives of meat through various sociopolitical and embodied tensions. I illustrate how interest in the effects of meat upon the health of future bodies brings together - viscerally and metabolically - the bodies of human and non-human beings. My examination of diverse valuations of meat, at times a substance of health and at times a poison, calls into question not only the bodies of feast and the bodies of famine, but also the naturalized divisions between necessity and desire.
Biting back: eating and not eating meat in industrializing food systems