Production in a State of Abundance: Valuation and Practice in the Swedish Meat Supply Chain

  • Date:
  • Location: University Main Building, Room IX, Biskopsgatan 3, Uppsala
  • Doctoral student: Bååth, Jonas
  • About the dissertation
  • Organiser: Sociologiska institutionen
  • Contact person: Bååth, Jonas
  • Disputation

This thesis is a sociological contribution to the study of abundance. It discusses the case of Swedish meat producers and how they persist in producing pork and beef despite a lack of demand and competitive disadvantages compared with foreign suppliers. In doing so, this study answers how abundance is perpetuated in the production of a foodstuff in over-supply.

This monograph further adds new empirical and theoretical knowledge to the fields of food studies, economic sociology, and the social sciences studying problems of abundance.

The study explores how Swedish meat producers deal with problems stemming from supplying more than demanded volumes of food. The inquiry into this topic combines pragmatism, economic sociology, and qualitative fieldwork. The empirical materials mainly consist of in-depth interviews with 41 informants and more than one month of participatory observations from the Swedish meat supply chain.

The evidence supplied shows how farmers, meat processors, and retailers continue supplying an abundant foodstuff by studying the valuations used in their production practice. The conclusion is that meat is not supplied to meet the consumers’ demand for food. Instead, this foodstuff is supplied as a marketing tool to meet the producers’ demand for commerce as an aesthetic of market exchange, or sustained production in line with Swedish agrifood policy, distinguished by high animal welfare and low antibiotics use. It is further argued that abundance is perpetuated because these producers rely on valuations which distinguish certain qualities of a good, rather than sufficient quantity of supply. Without using a quantitative, commensurable measure, it is not possible to limit the supply. This study contrasts existing theories of abundance by stating that problems thereof depend on how sufficiency is valuated, not the existence of some excess. These findings further support the argument that supply chains must be granted more attention in food studies primarily preoccupied with consumers. They also suggest further investigations into the relationships between markets in supply chains, and the role of production sites in economic life, would benefit economic sociology.