Paper: Meat politics. Analysing actors, strategies and power relations governing the meat regime in Austria


Meat consumption is increasingly discussed as a key lever for reducing environmental and human health impacts within food systems. As in many high-income countries, meat consumption in Austria exceeds dietary and planetary-health recommendations. If, and how, to address overconsumption has become a site of political conflict. Calls for political measures toward sustainable dietary transitions make it important to consider the political economy of meat consumption and production in national contexts. It is thus important to understand the surrounding structures, institutions, and power relations. Using a theoretical approach grounded in food regime theory and critical state analysis, we shed light on important actors and power relations concerning meat production and consumption in Austria. Drawing on a qualitative analysis of interviews and documents, we identify three political projects competing for influence. A strong production driven project pushes to establish a regime of national consumption rather than addressing excessive production and consumption. A civil society driven project is gaining ground in challenging dominant forms of accumulation. In a third project, national producers and alternative production pathways are subject to an increasingly powerful corporate retail sector, which advances economic and increasingly ecologically oriented rationalization to increase profits. Strategies to challenge this corporate power have so far been sparse. Rather, the reproduction of consumer power and responsibility in the producing sector serves to strengthen this development as food retailers can effectively position themselves as custodians of the consumer. Active policies and willingness to accept the necessity for changing consumption are required to redistribute power.

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Food system transformation, Meat, Power relations, Food regime theory, Critical state theory, Historical-materialist policy analysis