The Plant-Based Turn in Industrial Food Production: A New Perspective on the Limits of Commodities
Rumund, R. van
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In recent years, we have witnessed an upcoming ‘plant-based turn’ in food production. However, at least in the Netherlands, this trend seems to be stagnating. Hence in this research, I critically assess one of the main tactics used to realize a decrease in our dependency on animal products: plant-based product differentiation. Taking plant-based alternatives and substitutes for meat as example, I focus on various kinds of ‘product-differentiating activities’, and assess that such activities are problematic, since commodities are then presented too much as agents of change. Yet I maintain that one of the product-differentiating activities might withstand this criticism: presenting products as ‘experiential overridingness’, meaning that the ethical implications associated with plant-based food constitute a relevant background, while the direct experience of a product is moved to the foreground. I argue that this might foster an understanding of products as relevant but only limited contributors to tackling the many issues which plant-based producers claim to be able to solve solely through products. However, ‘experiential overridingness’ is strongly open for contextualization, since it places a strong emphasis on the product itself. Hence I will also focus more specifically on the context in which experiential overridingness might function: in a context of various issues and a diversity of potential courses of collective and individual attempts to mitigate the various issues.