Accepted paper:

Americanization and the Dutch meat industry: rationalization and moral economy

Author:

Alex Strating (University of Amsterdam)

Paper short abstract:

The process of rationalization in the Dutch meat industry is contested by interest groups, trade unions and consumers on the basis of moral arguments. In this paper I will focus on the responses of the meat industry to these attacks and analyze how moral issues influence the process of Americanization of the Dutch meat industry.

Paper long abstract:

The production, distribution and consumption of meat in the Netherlands (and in other European countries) in the second half of the 20th century has been deeply influenced by American technologies, distribution formats and food habits. The result is an increasing standardization and homogenization of the process in which animals are turned into meat. Meat changed from a luxury product with high added value into a mass commodity with small profit margins. This process, driven by the logics of efficiency and economies of scale is an example of Americanization of Dutch (or European) food ways. By the 1980s this resulted in the Netherlands in the disappearance of the municipal public slaughterhouses where animals were transformed into carcasses. The meat industry now was dominated by large private companies with factories where animals were turned into anonymous and standardized meat packages]. As a consequence skilled butchers have lost their central place in the production of meat to food technologists and local butcher shops were replaced by supermarkets. Meat is stripped of its animal origin and marketed as a convenient, healthy and safe commodity. This process of rationalization is contested by interest groups, trade unions and consumers on the basis of moral (social, ethical, environmental and health) arguments. In this paper I will focus on the responses of the meat industry to these attacks and analyze how moral issues influence the process of Americanization of the Dutch meat industry.

panel W120
'America' abroad: the good, the bad and the ugly (MAC workshop II)