Thinking about Food
• Food reveals important social, cultural and economic geographies.
On the social side are inequalities of food access, good nutrition and reported problems with
obesity and diet. Places where access to affordable, healthy food is poor are described as
food deserts which are particularly popular in urban areas.
In cultural side, “it shapes us and expresses us even more definitively than our furniture”.
There are also cultural associations between different cultural groups and ethnic or national
cuisines (favorite dish of UK is Tikka Masala), as well as a range of cultural images used to
market and sell food.
Economic wise, one only has to think about the investment and number of people involved
in the production, processing and retailing of food.
Tracing material and metaphorical associations with food is less obvious because they are as
incidental parts of everyday life
Food Chains are routes traced by particular foodstuffs from “farm to fork”. Hartwick
(1998:425) defnies food chains as significant production, distribution and consumption nodes
and the connecting links between them together with social, cultural, and natural conditions
involved in commodity movements
Short Food Supply Chains (SFCS). The interest in food provenance, for example, is often
conceptualized as offering smallscale producers the potential to develop SFCS to better
capture value added and ‘connect’ with end consumers.
Some General Food Trends
• Diets worldwide have become increasingly homogenous
• Diets in developing countries have traditionally been dominated by a single staple food.
• This is no longer the case in industrialized societies, where the variety of foods on offer has
never been greater. Although they experience some shortage of foods in some sectors, an
expansion in food trade, communications and the penetration of new markets by food
corporation are all having an effect on diet.
• The power food retailers is well documented as it influences the food we eat (e.g. Walmart)
• The global food industry spends $40 billion each year on advertising.
• Perhaps less predictable is growing demand for organic produce in industrialized countries.
• Fastfood is becoming available worldwide and offers a quick and accessible way to eat
Culinary Journey 1: Fast Food Culture
• It is usually eaten out of the home and out of our hands.
• Mcdonald’s is an example. Their key attributes:
efficiency (best available way to get from being hungry to being full
calculability (quantitative aspects: size, portion, time it takes to get the food)
predictability (assurance that products and services will be the same overtime & in all
control ( which is exerted over the people who enter McDonald’s restaurant through limited
menu, few options, queue lines and uncomfortable seats designed to control behavior and
encourage customers to eat. Even the behavior are controlled)
• Producers have had to adapt their global trends to a variety of local markets instead of just
simply rolling out their existing products Culinary Journey 2: Slow Food Culture
• Stemmed from in response to the opening of the first McDonald’s in Italy. The opening of
the restaurant raised the possibility that traditional eating habits might be threatened by
Americanized fast food. Carlo Petrini gathered chefs, authors and journalists together to
discuss the best means of countering fastfood. The birth gave to Slow Food Movement.
• The initial aspiration is the cultural connections surrounding local cuisines and traditional
products (could be about unknown or forgotten foods).
• The central objective of the Slow Food is to decelerate the food consumption experience so
that alternative forms of taste can be reacquired.
• The movement also has spatial significance: it wishes to embed food in territory and bring
consumers closer to these foods reasserting the natural base of production and the role of
• Key attributes:
Slowness (not compared to fast foods)
Differentiation (not on standardized format upon each locality)
Openness (diverse/open food culture)
Agrarian questions: farming, food chains and globalization
• Two significant process: industrialization of farming and globalization of food supply.
• Globalization is often defined in terms of the integration of systems among geographically
guided by Transnational corporations, institutions, actors, which in this context led to a new
political economy of agriculture, epitomized by the mass production of manufactured food.
• Friedmann and McMichael(1989) argues that that the relations between agriculture and
industry have historically been more global than generally thought. Using the concept of
‘food regime’, they linked international patter of food production and consumption to the
development of the capitalist system since the 1870s
First Regime: preindustrial (1870s190s) This involved settler colonies supplying
unprocessed and semiprocessed foods and materials to the metropolitan core of North
America and Western Europe. Characterized by extensive forms of capital accumulation, the
main products were grain and meat. The regime slowly disintegrated when agricultural
production in developed countries competed with cheap imports and trade barriers were
Second Regime: (1920s1970s) The regime relates to the productivist phase of the
agricultural change, focused on North America and the development of agriindustrial
complexes based around grainfed livestock production. Characterized by intensive forms of
capital accumulation, the second regime incorporated developed and developing nations into
commodity production systems. Argricultural surpluses and environmental disbenefits
undermined this phase of production in the 1970s.
Third regime: postindustrial (1980s onwards)
This regime refers to the crisis surrounding industrialized farming systems and involves the
production of fresh fruits and vegetables for the global market, the continued reconstitution
of food, and the supply of inputs for “elite” consumption in developed countries.
Characterized by a flexibe form of capital accumulation, this regime is dominated by the
restructuring activities of agribusiness TNCs and corporate retailers.
• Industrialized agriculture in the developed world o After the WW2 and subsequent shortage of food, the emergent industrial model of
farming, key features of which include a specialization of labour, product specialization
and intensification and assemblyline type production, led to three important trends in the
developed world in terms of food production:
1.) concentration of agricultural prod on a limited number of largescale firms;
2.) an increase in capital expenditure on major agricultural inputs
3.) growth in manufacturing and processing of foods
o Agrifood system is where the production center sector itself is inextricably linked to
various upstream and downstream industries.
o Agribusinesses are the sum of all operations involved in the manufacture and distribution
of farm supplies, the production operation of the farm, storage, processing and
distribution of farm commodities and items made from them. These agribusinesses often
develop commodity chains beyond national boundaries
o Two key factors in lettuce production in Salinas Valley California during its
transformation in 19501980
intensification, with a shift to more investment in intensive cops, increased labour
productivity and intensified planting
restructuring whreby large farms dominated sales
Another factor is the , vertical disintegration whereby the segments of the production
process were subcontracted out to smallerscale growers
o In the example above and others, it is often the nonfarm sectors of the agribusiness that
have become most industrialized and dominated by transnational companies. This
occurred through the ff processes:
Appropriationism which is where certain agricultural inputs are replaced by industrial
alternatives (e.g. synthetic chemicals replacing manur