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Placing trust: The political ecology of chicken meat in Japan

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Title:Placing trust: The political ecology of chicken meat in Japan
Authors:Schrager, Benjamin
Contributors:Suryanata, Krisnawati (advisor)
Geography (department)
Cultural anthropology
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Political ecology
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Date Issued:2019
Publisher:University of Hawai'i at Manoa
Abstract:This dissertation explores Japanese chicken meat to examine how the political ecology of food production informs eaters’ perceptions and practices. Food systems continue to grow increasingly complex and relations within them increasingly inscrutable. Despite the growing opacity of food networks in advanced capitalist societies, consumers face overwhelming amounts of food options and criteria for evaluating food. To investigate the growing chasm between the upstream conditions of production and downstream consumer practices, I analyze the tension between social anxiety and social trust as a key dynamic reshaping food systems.
Based on two years of ethnographic field research from 2015 to 2017 in Miyazaki prefecture, this dissertation explores a leading region for both industrial broiler chicken and artisan “jidori” chicken production. Today, chicken meat is the leading animal flesh of choice in Japan. Most consumers avoid imported chicken and pay more for domestic chicken, which has higher levels of social trust. Agricultural corporations coordinate clusters of broiler chicken in Miyazaki prefecture, and the region has endured numerous outbreaks of avian influenza. After a series of botched responses to avian influenza outbreaks in 2004, the Japanese state required farm operators to closely monitor their farms and government workers to assist with culling animals during outbreaks. The state portrays avian influenza as a foreign biothreat carried by wild migratory waterfowl that contaminates Japanese territory.
A category of artisan chicken called jidori evokes high levels of social trust, but the national government introduced a jidori standard that favors more industrial brands at the expense of regional brand. Since jidori costs far more than typical chicken meat, consumers are anxious of jidori’s authenticity, especially in the wake of several mislabeling scandals. Miyazaki prefecture’s jidori, Miyazaki Jitokko, has some of the highest standards and is often served raw as a representative dish for Miyazaki cuisine. Consumers eat chicken sashimi, which exposes eaters to harmful bacteria such as campylobacter. In analyzing these contradictory trends in contemporary food networks, I emphasize the importance of exploring food initiatives as situated within a unique coming together of place shaped by distinct historical and geographical contexts.
Description:Ph.D. Thesis. Ph.D. Thesis. University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa 2019
Pages/Duration:189 pages
Rights:All UHM dissertations and theses are protected by copyright. They may be viewed from this source for any purpose, but reproduction or distribution in any format is prohibited without written permission from the copyright owner.
Appears in Collections: Ph.D. - Geography

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