Meeting the demand for meat?


  • Emily Yates-Doerr

    1. Postdoctoral research fellow at the Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, working on an interdisciplinary European Research Council-funded project that interrogates ‘eating in practice’ ( Her current research analyzes how various international organizations define and respond to global malnutrition. Her previous project, which was carried out in a region of the Guatemalan highlands where hunger was a longstanding concern, examined the emergence of public health programs aimed at obesity prevention. Her email is
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Renewed fears expressed by the United Nations about worldwide population growth have coincided with international concerns about the increased consumption of meat. This article, which draws upon long-term fieldwork in the Guatemalan highlands and ongoing scientific research in the Netherlands, examines the ways in which global organizations are framing and responding to these concerns. Economists generally address the problem of increased meat consumption through the language of ‘demand’, while nutritionists adopt the rhetoric of nutritional ‘needs’. Not only do these approaches tend to present meat – which in practice takes many forms – as a single substance, but they also flatten the nuanced relationships that exist between the eater and the eaten, while overlooking the diverse contexts in which ‘meat’ eating takes place. This article addresses the question how anthropologists might approach the topic of increased meat consumption, suggesting that an analysis of the ways in which global actors approach this topic can help the discipline of anthropology to re-engage with historic debates about the role of ‘the material’ and ‘the symbolic’ in relation to eating practices and to move these debates in new and productive directions.