When Kate Cairns and I first worked on the topic of Food and Femininity, we didn’t anticipate that the topic of meat would hold such an important, but contradictory place in everyday foodwork. People worry about meat — where it comes from, whether it is safe to eat, how the animals were treated, and if they should teach kids about where meat comes from.
In this article in Agriculture and Human Values, we draw from qualitative data collected with Toronto mothers to explore how meat figures into foodwork and childrearing. We identify a central paradox surrounding meat consumption. On the one hand, good mothers are expected to teach kids where food comes from, a perspective strongly informed by ethical consumption discourse. On the other hand, good mothers are expected to protect children from the harsh realities of modern life — realities like slaughterhouses, factory farms, and eating animals. This paradox is not easily resolved, and can force mothers to confront some of the visceral discomforts of eating meat, especially in settings that are far-removed from the lives and deaths of animals. More generally, this articles speaks to the idea that food habits are not just about knowing (e.g., knowing the backstory of your meal), but also involve care, concern, and discordant emotions.