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Coolabah  2011 

Dairy Chains: Consumer Foodways and Agricultural Landscapes

Keywords: activism , dairy , consumption , housewives

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Food is significant as an agent of social change as well as being thesubject of activism. The focus of this paper is on nature’s “perfect food”, milk, inthe 1950s, a period of social transition that offers fertile space for reconstructingfood activism and giving it a history. Australia’s dairy industry is the country’slargest processed food industry and the fourth largest of the nation’s ruralindustries. Milk is a fruitful site to consider the relationship between people andtheir food, production and consumption, the intimate way we bring our food intoour bodies and the experience of farmers with personal connections to theecosystems in which they live. Dense networks connect farm producers andconsumers. The dairy industry will be considered as a site of production andconsumption where considerable political activity was concentrated in the 1950s.These themes are illuminated in the paper by briefly considering two groups ofwomen caught up in very different family labour systems defined by theirrelationship to milk – housewives active in the state associations campaigningaround milk prices and quality and farm women. The transformation of rural life,home and food culture during this period impacted on both groups of women, itwas from their work that they expressed a position and identified, and both engagedin complex processes of negotiation that, I argue, have generated and sustainedother movements.


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