Cheap Meat: Flap Food Nations in the Pacific Islands

Deborah Gewertz and Frederick Errington; (Berkeley, University of California Press) 2010

From Robert Foster (author of Coca-Globalization:  Following Soft Drinks from New York to New Guinea:  “Gewertz and Errington unpack the aspirations and anxieties, calculations and controversies that inhabit an inexpensive cut of fatty mean.  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. Cheap Meat provides a startling view of how global food markets fashion the bodies and identities of people everywhere.”

From Emily Yates-Doerr in Material World:  “In this easily readable, but nonetheless ambitious book, Gewertz and Errington apply their longstanding interest in change in Papua New Guinea to the controversies surrounding the sale and purchase of lamb and mutton fat among, what they call, “Flap Food Nations.” They suggest that flaps embody numerous ambiguities about post-colonial relations between the Pacific Islands (specifically Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Tonga) and Australia and New Zealand. Although they are a tasty and important source of nutrition for many Pacific Islanders, they are also widely seen as “by-products”, “dumped” upon the poor by wealthier nations. Furthermore, given an escalating incidence of obesity in the Pacific Islands, flaps – themselves more than 50% fat – have come to represent the high prevalence of dietary related illnesses: diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, etc. Gewertz and Errington suggest that because of their complicated symbolism, flaps function akin to totems, marking group membership— in this case third world eaters and first world refusers. This totemic quality of flaps additionally references inextricable relations of dependency, indexing those who live in a second-rate modernity in which they reply upon a second-rate source of food.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s