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Follow up on Slow Food Co-option May 13, 2009

Posted by Ian Duckles in Uncategorized.

As a quick follow-up on my earlier post about large corporations co-opting the language and rhetoric of the slow food movement, today I came across this article in the New York Times. There is a nice quotation in the article that, I believe, nicely summarizes why I find this practice so problematic:

“The local foods movement is about an ethic of food that values reviving small scale, ecological, place-based, and relationship-based food systems,” Ms. Prentice said. “Large corporations peddling junk food are the exact opposite of what this is about.”

The real concern here, I think, is that as large corporations increasingly co-opt and corrupt the language of this movement, people will lose touch with the ideas and values that inform the movement. As I see it, the Slow Food Movement is motivated, in large part, by an ethic of care (I would be curious to hear Dwight’s thoughts on this) in which one’s eating habits are guided and shaped by the relationships one forms with individuals in one’s community. Rather than buy food from who-knows-where grown by strangers one never even sees, one instead develops a relationship with the local farmers. In exchange for supporting her operations, she provides me with quality products that are grown in a responsible manner. I know they are grown in a responsible manner because I know the person who grew them and I can go and see the farm where the food is grown. It is this emphasis on forming relationships that is so important to the Slow Food movement, and which is lost through this co-option of the movement by large corporations.

Free Beer: As a quick side-note, I recently started brewing my own beer and am relatively pleased by my first efforts. I currently have way too much around the house, so if any of my colleagues would like to try some locally produced beer, just drop me a line and I will  bring you a bottle or two.



1. Friday Food Blogging « Philosophy On The Mesa - May 15, 2009

[…] food movement trackback Related to Ian’s recent posts about the slow-food movement (here and here), Catherine Rampell in the NY Times extrapolated some data from a report  by the Organization for […]

2. Dwight Furrow - May 23, 2009


I think you are right that the ideals of the slow-food movement line up well with the ideals of an ethic of care, for just the reasons you suggest. Food returns to the center of a variety of relationships that industrial food production, and the resulting consumption patterns, tend to marginalize or make obscure. But part of the argument of Reviving the Left is that the ethics of care, if it is to be politically relevant, must include within its orbit relationships that are not local.

Even though I don’t have a personal relationship with a winemaker in Chile or a coffee producer in Nicaragua, it isn’t obvious to me why I ought to care less about their circumstances, or value their product less than that of local producers.

Of course, there are issues related to resource and energy use that make using local food attractive. But these matters are complicated. While me might burn less fossil fuel using local foodstuffs we increase the water deficit by doing so. And while our local producers need the business, so do foreign suppliers and indigenous people who are often desparately poor.

So I am inclined to support global trade if it can be done efficiently.

It is important to remember that the “Green Revolution” (the old one related to the transformation of agriculture in the mid-20th century, not the alleged new one) had lots of positive effects on farm economies in underdeveloped counteries and their ability to increase food production. It had lots of negative effects as well which the slow-food movement is combating. But I wonder whether a local model of food production is a viable option for world food supplies. I’m not sure there is as yet a clear answer to that.

So in the end I think the slow-food movement is more an exemplification of communitarian ideals with some overlap with (at least my version of) the ethic of care.

3. Friday Food Blogging: Local Food and Care « Philosophy On The Mesa - June 26, 2009

[…] and Care June 26, 2009 Posted by iduckles in Uncategorized. trackback In a comment to a much earlier post, Dwight Furrow wrote: Even though I don’t have a personal relationship with a winemaker in Chile […]

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