Paddock to plate' is part of the fresh food revolution. Eating is no longer just about viewing food on a plate in isolation; it's a holistic experience that extends beyond the table and the kitchen. are increasingly embracing the ethical connection of paddock to plate and palate desiring to know all the production-chain elements of the food on their plates so they can make informed decisions about what they eat. Desiring produce with low food miles, high-end restaurants now offer fruit and vegetables from their own gardens and weekend food markets cater to the consumer who demands organic locally grown produce.
The 'paddock to plate' philosophy incorporates mounting emphasis on taste, nutrition, value, freshness, sustainability and animal welfare. But what about human welfare. As part of the production chain, are consumers concerned about the people who grow, harvest or catch their food and the conditions under which they work?
Since slavery has been officially abolished, enslavement no longer revolves around legal ownership of another human being. In today’s world the chains that hold humans are more often psychological than they are physical. Fearing deportation if complaints are made, migrant workers in the fresh-food supply chains are often subjected to exploitation working long hours for low wages, and sometimes no payment at all. While adherents to religious cults obediently toil for no pay to provide wholesome food sold in restaurants and markets.
This paper argues that ‘the paddock to plate’ movement with its emphasis on taste, low food miles, nutrition, sustainability and animal welfare can co-exist with the ethics of exploitation, child labour, deprivation and punishment for those labouring to meet our demands for ‘wholesome’ food.
You can chat about this presentation with Diana in Zoom
12:00 pm Saturday 18th July
Hi Diana. It's great you brought up this angle. It is so sad. From what you observed, what would you think would be tell-tale signs of such exploitation? Very cheap prices or maybe this is not just a practice of cheaper food stores?
Thanks Diana for this important paper. There are some hideous slavery stories in the wine industry too. Especially in South Africa. Natural, organic, straight from the hands of intergenerational indentured labourers.
Interesting paper. There has been some literature on this mainly about US cases. Julie Guthman raises it in her work on organic food in California. Guthman, Julie. 1998. “Regulating Meaning, Appropriating Nature: The Codification of California Organic Agriculture.” Antipode 30 (2): 135–154. doi:10.1111/1467-8330.00071. The issue of labor might also be in her book Agrarian Dreams: The Paradox of Organic Farming in California. I had to consider this issue in my PhD upgrade paper before I was allowed to embark on fieldwork in Shanghai.
There are amazing stories emerging of employers feeding their international student workers during Covid, and of the camaraderie of staff looking after each other.
And of course these are also the workers who are not covered by Jobkeeper under COVID-19
It is horrible, but to many 'paddock to plate' is just another highly exploitable marketing opportunity. "Sell 'em what they want to hear". We gobble it up too. Humans are suckers for a good story, and we'd rather not see the murky machinations underpinning the narrative. I loved the Yellow Deli on first visit -the craftmanship, the attention to detail in artisan woodwork, the delicious food...but something felt 'wrong' too. Not awful, just off-piste. Women scurried in the background and bearded men strutted (gently) in the foreground. I genuinely grieve the loss of the aesthetic in my world, but can't put aside what I now know about the cult for the sake of a good feed. COVID-19 may change the migrant worker story even further with serious disruptions to harvest and supply chains https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2020-06-23/farmers-warn-no-seasonal-workers-will-leave-fruit-to-rot/12374016?fbclid=IwAR0nujtwo-r5WN_NoxfzkEyaBTccCiRmohuwo2kH_T96mB2LRvlvZIDLXaU.
This paper poses good questions. Local farming does hold a challenge to the alienation of capitalist food production by bringing the issues within a smaller radius, but as you point out, it surely does not guarantee human rights. There does seem to be a slight disjuncture in the pairing of high-end 'paddock to plate' restaurants with the labor exploitation for major grocery retailers. People in the fields better be getting paid for a dinner tab that costs hundreds of dollars in the name of sustainability! The religious sects are a different story. I wonder if there is much scholarship on the way farmers markets have provided outlets for these groups.
Thank you Di. I remember the Common Ground bakery at Rozelle, who now run the Yellow Deli in Katoomba, which may be the cult you reference. Always an odd vibe, but nice date, nut and seed bars if I remember rightly. I didn't care for their bread - very dense. There are other food businesses closely tied with religious organisations, whose staff come from within their relatively closed circles. Whether they pay fairly I don't know. And lets not forget the number of food businesses large and small that have profited from systematically underpaid staff - not slavery, but not ethical either.