Boundary Labor and the Production of Emotionless Commodities: The Case of Beef Production

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Abstract

This study examines cattle producers' work in conventional U.S. beef production. Producers express emotional connection to cattle, but also treat cattle as economic assets. Balancing these perspectives is central to their work. This article introduces the concept of “boundary labor” to describe the way producers' emotion management separates cattle physically and emotionally from products derived from their bodies. Producers have three central emotional skills that make this labor possible. They include (1) a sense of responsibility, (2) sentiments of dominion, and (3) faith in the cycle of production.

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