Musings on Meat

This week at City Market I got to know the Meat & Seafood Department. When I first arrived I observed the physical attributes of the meat: bloody, raw, red, muscle and flesh. Beef, pork, chicken and lamb. Approximately five to six different cuts of pork, twenty of beef, seven of chicken and two to three of lamb. The meat was well-organized on black styrofoam plates wrapped in clear packaging with labeled stickers neatly placed on the wrapping. I thought about the lifespan of this meat: the animals were born and lived someplace,were eventually slaughtered, the meat was processed, packaged and then shelved at City Market. Undoubtably, this was an energy intensive process.

But what else did this process, and more generally meat, represent? I was curious about the cultural value that our society places on meat. What associations do we have with it?

According to Deborah Lupton in Food, the body and the self, “one powerful binary opposition which is invoked in popular and medical discourses relating to food is that between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods”. Influenced by cultural expectations and values, this notion is what allows us to assign moral meanings to food. For example, good food not only implies food that nourishes the body, but also a sense of self-control and concern for ones health; whereas bad food implies a sense of weakness or lack of control (Lupton, 28). I wondered where meat fell in the spectrum of ‘good’ and ‘bad’.

Turns out, meat has conflicting meanings of ‘good’ and ‘bad’  in western society. To better make sense of this binary opposition, I created a chart that outlines some of the various ‘goodness’ and ‘badness’ aspects of meat.

I’ve always firmly believed that nothing is black or white; there’s always a grey area. I feel that meat is neither good or bad, but rather has aspects of both. One thing is for sure: my philosophical musings of meat have altered my experience in the space of the Meat & Seafood Department of the co-op.

FN 4/9

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Categories: Field Note Posts

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