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Cheap Meat

Cheap Meat: Flap Food Nations in the Pacific Islands

Deborah Gewertz
Frederick Errington
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: 1
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Cheap Meat
    Book Description:

    Cheap Meatfollows 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.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94597-5
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. INTRODUCTION What’s Not on Our Plates
    (pp. 1-11)

    Our story is about a fatty, cheap meat eaten by peoples in the Pacific Islands, who are among the most overweight in the world. Lamb or mutton flaps—sheep bellies—are often 50 percent fat. They move from First World pastures and pens in New Zealand and Australia, where white people rarely eat them, to Third World pots and plates in the Pacific Islands, where brown people frequently eat them—and in large amounts.¹ As fatty and cheap meat, they are a kind of food implicated in the global epidemic of eating-related “lifestyle” diseases: obesity, diabetes, and hypertension. Many also...

  6. ONE Thinking about Meat
    (pp. 12-28)

    During one of the first conversations we had with a New Zealand meat trader about the politically controversial sale of lamb and mutton flaps from his country and Australia to the Pacific Islands, he stopped to make sure we understood something very basic about his enterprise and the market: You do realize, he said, that no one grows a sheep for its flaps; the reason flaps don’t bring a very good price is because they are too fatty for people who can afford better. But we will be able to sell them some-place when the price gets right. Meat never...

  7. TWO Making Flaps
    (pp. 29-52)

    It may be true that meat never goes uneaten when the price becomes right. And it may also be true that lamb and mutton flaps, as food and as fatty meat, have more intrinsic value than many manufactured commodities. Yet, as we have suggested, their circulation on an international market is not a simple matter of straightforward supply and demand. After all, such circulation involves (among other things) the appropriation of surplus value and the emulation through consumption of what may be seen as the good life of modern meat eating. Thus lamb and mutton flaps (like all things that...

  8. THREE Trading Meat
    (pp. 53-71)

    New Zealand and Australian traders who sell meat to consumers in the Pacific Islands bristle at stories like the one we just presented about the King of Tonga. They do not want the publicity, they told us. They do not want the interference, they are not greedy, and they are not looking for the kind of deals Ross Finlayson made with the Soviets. That world, they believe, was never truly viable because it was not based on market forces. Their world involves smaller margins (3 percent if everything goes well) for lots of work, lots of knowledge, and lots of...

  9. FOUR Papua New Guinea’s Flaps
    (pp. 72-95)

    When we asked traders to explain how lamb and mutton flaps ended up on Papua New Guinean plates and in Papua New Guinean bodies, many began with a general story linking the earliest contact between Europeans and Pacific Islanders with the trade in meat. According to this story, animal protein was always scarce for Pacific Islanders and hence a luxury item. Consequently, imported meat of even the cheapest kind was immediately deemed desirable, as the initial explorers, whalers, traders, and missionaries (some say Captain Cook himself) discovered when they first traded in brined brisket of beef. (Brisket is a cheap,...

  10. FIVE Smiles and Shrugs, Worried Eyes and Sighs
    (pp. 96-116)

    The ambivalence of the Madang snack bar owner concerning lamb and mutton flaps was echoed by many Papua New Guineans, especially by those better able than Joseph to eat their fair share, and more, of the country’s flap imports. We first encountered this ambivalence during our preliminary research in 2004. At that time we mentioned to a range of people—mostly with at least a modest income—that we were interested in studying the role of lamb and mutton flaps in Papua New Guinea. Many acquaintances—businessmen, civil servants, teachers, health workers, plantation employees, rural smallholders, market vendors, security guards,...

  11. SIX Pacific Island Flaps
    (pp. 117-147)

    The Papua New Guineans who were seeking to curtail the trade in flaps did not have much effect.¹ However, their counterparts elsewhere in the Pacific have been somewhat more successful. At about the same time that Papua New Guinea’s Daniel Kapi was calling for the regulation of lamb and mutton flaps in 1996, other influential Pacific Islanders were expressing similar concerns in public statements. In both Fiji and Tonga, their concerns led to efforts to restrict, if not ban, their sale. Although little was actually enacted in Tonga (for reasons we shall explore), in 2000 Fiji did enact such a...

  12. CONCLUSION One Supersize Does Not Fit All: FLAP VERSUS MAC
    (pp. 148-166)

    The controversy about lamb and mutton flaps is not likely to go away soon. In fact, things were heating up again in 2007. Pete Hodgson, then the New Zealand Minister of Health, was under pressure from his Pacific Island counterparts (as were his predecessors) to do something rapidly to help Pacific Island peoples lead healthier lives. Perhaps, some Pacific Island health officials suggested, New Zealand itself might limit the export of fatty meats, especially lamb and mutton flaps. To respond appropriately to such pressure, Hodgson’s ministry, together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and NZAID (New Zealand’s agency...

  13. Notes
    (pp. 167-192)
  14. References
    (pp. 193-208)
  15. Index
    (pp. 209-213)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 214-214)