Arve Hansen: Meat consumption and capitalist development: The meatification of food provision and practice in Vietnam

In Geoforum, 2018.


Arve Hansen


  • Global meat consumption is increasing rapidly, especially in East Asia.
  • Literature on meat consumption says little about how and why people eat more meat.
  • Vietnam consumes much meat compared to income and urbanisation levels.
  • Explanatory factors found in changes to systems of provision and everyday practices.
  • Meat consumption increases with multi-scalar processes of capitalist development.


The global consumption of meat and animal products has increased dramatically in recent decades, particularly due to rising consumption in so-called developing countries. This increase has popularly been explained as part of a “nutrition transition” driven by rising income, urbanisation and foreign culinary influences. From the supply side, the increase has been approached as part of a “livestock revolution”, or alternatively as the outcome of capitalist agricultural processes. This paper argues, however, that these explanations have given insufficient attention to how and why consumption of meat changes. The paper analyses the case of Vietnam, where meat consumption has increased very rapidly since the initiation of market reforms in 1986. In understanding how meat consumption and development have co-evolved, the paper argues that consumption should be approached at the intersection between systems of provision and everyday practices. With this backdrop – and partly combining, partly going beyond standard explanations – the paper locates four main contributing factors towards increasing meat consumption in Vietnam: (1) changes in systems of provision for meat, (2) the meat intensification of traditional meals and the import of meat-intensive eating practices from abroad, (3) the increasing prevalence of eating out; and (4) the positive social connotations attached to meat as a symbol of development and progress. The paper goes on to argue that the dramatic meatification of food provision and practice in Vietnam should be understood as the result of capitalist development processes and their associated economic and social changes, rather than the ‘natural’ and inevitable outcome of development.


Published May 14, 2018 1:23 PM - Last modified May 14, 2018 1:54 PM