Cheap Meat: Flap Food Nations in the Pacific Islands by Frederick Errington, Book Download 0520260937

April 5, 2018

Cheap Meat: Flap Food Nations in the Pacific Islands

Cheap Meat follows the controversial trade in inexpensive fatty cuts of lamb or mutton, called “flaps,” from the farms of New Zealand and Australia to their primary markets in the Pacific islands of Papua New Guinea, Tonga, and Fiji. Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington address the evolution of the meat trade itself along with the changing practices of exchange in Papua New Guinea. They show that flaps—which are taken from the animals’ bellies and are often 50 percent fat—are not mere market transactions but evidence of the social nature of nutrition policies, illustrating and reinforcing Pacific Islanders’ presumed second-class status relative to the white populations of Australia and New Zealand.


“Could easily become a food studies classic. . . . A compelling and informative read.” (Material World 2010-07-06)“Valuable book for a range of academic interests including human rights, photography and journalism, and the history of South Africa and apartheid.” (Paul Lowe Times Higher Education 2010-07-22)“A fascinating study about a distasteful topic.” (Eric K. Silverman Pacific Affairs 2011-06-29)“An engaging narrative. . . . Will be of interest to a broad audience.” (Geoffrey C. Marks American Journal Of Human Biology 2011-06-29)

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From the Inside Flap

“Gewertz and Errington unpack the aspirations and anxieties, calculations and controversies that inhabit an inexpensive cut of fatty meat. Following the trail of sheep bellies from slaughterhouses in Australia and New Zealand to the plates of Pacific Islanders, they evenhandedly map the divergent perspectives of commercial traders, government officials, and ordinary consumers acting within a contested material and moral economy. Cheap Meat provides a startling view of how global food markets fashion the bodies and identities of people everywhere.”—Robert J. Foster, author of Coca-Globalization: Following Soft Drinks from New York to New Guinea“Cheap Meat is a compelling example of how ethnography concerned with Oceania can elucidate broader questions in anthropology and the social sciences in general. Gewertz and Errington show the complexity of globalization by focusing on the most unlikely commodity. This work at once demonstrates how unfettered capitalism is able to use global circulation to literally convert one person’s trash to another’s treasure and how resilient Pacific Islanders refashion Western commodities to their own ends.“—Paige West, Curator for the Pacific American Museum of Natural History

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I purchased this book after seeing a BBC story about mutton flaps. If you are interested in sociology/anthropology and the relationship between food, culture and economics this is highly recommended. I feel it did a nice job of explaining the emerging economies of Some developing Pacific nations – Papua New Guinea in particular. I also thought they dealt fairly with the New Zealeand meat processors and traders themselves. Rather than a scathing indictment of their neo-colonial practices, it paints a picture of the realities of their industry. It also doesn’t feel paternal to the people and cultures they study. I wouldn’t recommend this book for general consumption – Omnivore’s Dilemma it is not. However if you are interested in the topics covered – the South Pacific, emerging economies, the food industry, etc. It may be perfect for you as it was for me. It is also a fairly quick read.
This is a fascinating book about how cultural attitudes can create food taboos that verge on demonization. The book is about the brisk trade in high-fat cuts of meat that are shipped to Pacific Island nations where they are eagerly consumed and enjoyed. The idea seems to be that because these high-fat meats are unfashionable in Eurocentric nations, the shipping of these meats to brown-skinned nations is somehow “dumping” and should be prohibited. Okay, let’s look at the horse meat trade between the USA and Europe. Most people in the USA wouldn’t be caught dead eating horse meat. The taboo against eating horses is extremely potent in the United States. However, the USA ships large quantities of horse meat to Europe, where it is eagerly consumed by the citizens with no qualms whatsoever. Does this mean that the USA is somehow dumping inferior horse meat in Europe? Are the Europeans therefore victims of USA exploitation? Just like the people of Tonga and New Guinea are victims of Australian capitalist aggression with their “flap meat”? It’s strange that nobody seems to be applying these arguments to McDonalds, which is vigorously promoting its high-fat “fast foods” all over the world. The position seems to be that if white people like a particular food, it must be okay for everybody. But if brown-skinned people like a certain cut of meat that white people reject, then this particular cut of meat must be inferior. This is so close to Eurocentrism and arrogant cultural snobbery that I can’t tell the difference. Don’t other nations and cultures have the right to decide what they want to eat? How about the huge quantities of Spam and other fatty meats that the USA ships to Hawaii? Is the internal food trafficking of nations also considered to be exploitive “dumping”? Is the Jimmy Dean sausage company guilty of genocidal imperialism against the poor whites of Texas because Jimmy Dean produces fat-laden sausage meat? Science says that eating lots of fat can cause heart disease and pancreatic cancer. I’m not disputing this. But when we make certain kinds of food actually illegal, as has been done with high-fat “flat meat” in certain Pacific nations, then we are telling adult and presumably responsible people what they can eat and what they can’t. Healthy eating should be encouraged by education, not compulsion. The real test here is reciprocity, which means that everybody should have to play by the same rules. If the brown-skinned nations must be told what they can eat and what they can’t eat, then how about white America and white Germany and white Russia? Where are the laws in America and France and Russia that prohibit the sale of fatty meats? Why don’t such laws exist in Eurocentric nations? Are we saying that white people are smarter and more responsible than the brown-skinned citizens of the world? These are important questions that strike at the very hard of democracy and self-determination. If we can’t trust certain groups of people to select their own foods, then how can we possibly trust them to elect their own leaders?
I had the pleasure of taking Professor Gewertz’s class on the Sociology of Food back in college and we had the opportunity to read Cheap Meat. It was a book that helped nudge me into the food world, not because it presents the food industry in a particularly appealing light (in fact, you may seriously reconsider your meat consumption upon completion of this book), however it provides such an eyeopening account of the cheap meat pathways that it peaked my interest in other food pathways that I never would have considered. I definitely recommend checking this book out if you have any interest in food, sociology or just good writing.

  • Title: Cheap Meat: Flap Food Nations in the Pacific Islands
  • Autor: Frederick Errington
  • Publisher (Publication Date): University of California Press (February 8, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: | 0520260937
  • ISBN-13: | 978-0520260931
  • Download File Format: EPUB, PDF

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