Community, culture and meat consumption: A traditional ethnography of meat and the new materialisms for planetary health

Sallaway-Costello, Jake (2022) Community, culture and meat consumption: A traditional ethnography of meat and the new materialisms for planetary health. Doctoral thesis, Birmingham City University.

Jake Sallaway-Costello PhD Thesis published_Final version_Submitted Aug 2021_Final Award Sept 2022.pdf - Accepted Version

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Global meat consumption is increasing, presenting threats to the health of populations and fragility of natural ecosystems, establishing unsustainable consumption as a challenge to planetary health. A call to action is complicated by the universal and cultural dominance of meat consumption, misaligning the issue with traditional public health and health promotion approaches. A need was identified to explore cultural meanings of meat in sustainable diets, and the influence of culture on meat consumption, food security and sustainability.

A traditional ethnography was conducted, in which I became a member of the Birmingham Foodie Community; a network of food activists in the regional West Midlands, using activism as a method of participant-led elicitation of cultural meanings of meat. A year-long period of overt participatory fieldwork generated a large multimedia dataset, explored using a bespoke post-anthropocentric analytical process developed from theoretical principles of New Materialist Social Inquiry, centring social-assemblages around meat and other foods.

Resultant themes identified diverse cultural meanings of meat in the Birmingham Foodie Community, beyond that of a simple consumable product. The role of food in the development, maintenance, transition and extinction of dietary practices, urban food systems, local communities and microcultures determined meat, as a scarce but demanded resource, was a material of local micropolitics. Meat was a material which connected local activist-led solutions to global health and environmental challenges, through which activists negotiated community development activity for food security and sustainability.

The diverse cultural meanings of meat present complications to policy development, and opportunities to innovate new planetary health initiatives from impactful local actions. The development of a novel post-anthropocentric analytical framework may have uses in the exploration of meanings of other practices relevant to health in the Anthropocene. Use of complex social theorisations to make sense of culture for planetary health, may be reconsidered in favour of grounded approaches which value participant worldviews. The meanings of meat as a material of community and culture pose opportunities and challenges to the development of sustainable diets to support planetary health.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
31 August 2021Submitted
1 September 2022Accepted
Uncontrolled Keywords: Meat consumption, planetary health, health promotion, materialism
Subjects: CAH02 - subjects allied to medicine > CAH02-06 - allied health > CAH02-06-04 - environmental and public health
Divisions: Doctoral Research College > Doctoral Theses Collection
Faculty of Health, Education and Life Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Depositing User: Jaycie Carter
Date Deposited: 10 Nov 2023 12:15
Last Modified: 10 Nov 2023 12:15

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