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With Care for Cows and a Love for Milk: Affect and Performance in Swedish Dairy Industry Marketing Strategies

Chapter in book
Authors Tobias Linné
Helena Pedersen
Published in Meat Culture, Ed.: A. Potts
Pages 109-128
ISBN 978-90-04-32584-5
Publisher Brill
Place of publication Leiden and Boston
Publication year 2016
Published at
Pages 109-128
Language en
Subject categories Cultural Studies, Sociology, Media and Communications, Other Humanities, Educational Sciences, Other Social Sciences


This book chapter explores promotion strategies of the Swedish dairy industries through ethnographic field studies of so-called pasture releases (betessläpp) and open farm events at Swedish dairy farms between 2012-14. These events, both of which have become a great success during recent years in terms of the number of visitors they attract, specifically target families with children and school classes, and present themselves as educational. The activities are designed to let the children follow the route of the milk, from the moment of arriving at the farm, to the end where visitors are invited to taste the final products. The chapter gives a guided tour through these sites, exploring how the pasture releases and open farm events embody, shape and legitimize certain values and ideals of human-bovine relations. The analyses follow two trajectories of scholarship in critical animal theory. The first trajectory draws on Foucauldian analyses of the production of farmed animal subjectivities in meat and dairy industry settings (Cole 2011; Holloway 2007; Thierman 2010). The second is related to what has been called the ‘new carnivore’ movement (Gutjahr 2013; Parry 2010; Potts, Armstrong and Brown 2013) and the ‘happy meat’ discourse (Cole 2011; Gillespie 2011; Stanescu 2014), referring to the frequently expressed idea that meat produced at small-scale organic farms represents a supposedly more ethical way of consuming animals, as compared to industrial production. Our analyses pursue critical inquiry into how cows and their bodily products are ontologized as commodities and consumables regardless of mode of production, and how the ethical and environmental problems embedded in the production and consumption of dairy products are addressed or downplayed. Thus, while the cows in these events may be represented as subjects, they are at the same time rhetorically disfigured to mirror and model the objectives of their exploiters. We argue that, in the pasture releases and open farm events, the production of bovine subjectivity and new carnivorism/happy meat should not be seen as separate phenomena; rather, they are intimately interrelated by educational elements relying on bovine emotional labour. These educational elements, that render the animals at the same time both invisible and affectively useful, take on certain performative dimensions (zooësis) that are integral parts of the success of the new carnivore and happy meat regimes. We further argue that the informal ‘edutainment’ practices of pasture releases and open farm events must be understood in the larger context of the dairy industry’s historical penetration of formal education (Jönsson 2005; Pedersen 2010).

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