Chapter 6: Reconfiguring animals in food systems: an agenda for research
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This chapter aims to review key aspects of the reconfiguration of farmed animals in contemporary livestock agriculture, and to use that review to develop an agenda for ongoing research into how animals are transformed as they are caught up in the complex networks of modern food systems. Focusing mainly on examples of animal agriculture in the Minority World, the chapter looks at how the changing technologies and knowledge-practices of farming, and the changing nature and demands of food systems (from production to consumption and beyond) have been associated with changes in how farmed animals are bred, reared, understood and related to. The chapter thus looks at how animals have been, and are being, transformed to 'fit' into contemporary agriculture, and what the effects of that are for their health and welfare and for emerging concerns about around 'biosecurity'. It also touches on the representation of farmed animal bodies as agents of environmental crisis. The chapter explores what it is that is transformed in different cases - from bodily conformation (with its various focal points of size, shape, robustness and resilience, and so on), to interventions in the life processes constituting animal individuals and populations (such as animals fertility, growth and morbidity rates) to interventions aiming to manipulate animal genetics to various ends (including production and environmental ends). From there, the chapter also explores the understandings and evaluations of animals as different kinds of meat in different food systems (from a focus on value, quantity and 'efficiency' in 'mass' consumption, to an elite preoccupation with specialty, taste and 'quality') and briefly considers the displacement of 'actual' animals by alternatives such as in-vitro meat production. In conclusion the chapter pulls these strands together to put forward a series of themes which, it is suggested, contribute to a continuing research agenda for examining the ongoing reconfiguration and placing of farmed animals in modern food systems.

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