Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Reconfiguring animals in food systems: an agenda for research

Holloway, Lewis


Profile Image

Professor Lewis Holloway
Professor of Human Geography, Director of Research (School of Environmental Science), Chair of the Faculty of Science and Engineering Ethics Committee


Colin L. Sage


This chapter aims to review key aspects of the reconfiguration of farmed animals in contemporary livestock agriculture, and to use that review to develop an agenda for ongoing research into how animals are transformed as they are caught up in the complex networks of modern food systems. Focusing mainly on examples of animal agriculture in the Minority World, the chapter looks at how the changing technologies and knowledge-practices of farming, and the changing nature and demands of food systems (from production to consumption and beyond) have been associated with changes in how farmed animals are bred, reared, understood and related to. The chapter thus looks at how animals have been, and are being, transformed to 'fit' into contemporary agriculture, and what the effects of that are for their health and welfare and for emerging concerns about around 'biosecurity'. It also touches on the representation of farmed animal bodies as agents of environmental crisis. The chapter explores what it is that is transformed in different cases - from bodily conformation (with its various focal points of size, shape, robustness and resilience, and so on), to interventions in the life processes constituting animal individuals and populations (such as animals fertility, growth and morbidity rates) to interventions aiming to manipulate animal genetics to various ends (including production and environmental ends). From there, the chapter also explores the understandings and evaluations of animals as different kinds of meat in different food systems (from a focus on value, quantity and 'efficiency' in 'mass' consumption, to an elite preoccupation with specialty, taste and 'quality') and briefly considers the displacement of 'actual' animals by alternatives such as in-vitro meat production. In conclusion the chapter pulls these strands together to put forward a series of themes which, it is suggested, contribute to a continuing research agenda for examining the ongoing reconfiguration and placing of farmed animals in modern food systems.


Holloway, L. (2022). Reconfiguring animals in food systems: an agenda for research. In C. L. Sage (Ed.), A Research Agenda for Food Systems (129-146). Cheltenham: Edward Elgar Publishing.

Online Publication Date Oct 25, 2022
Publication Date Oct 25, 2022
Deposit Date Oct 25, 2022
Publicly Available Date May 19, 2023
Publisher Edward Elgar Publishing
Pages 129-146
Series Title Elgar Research Agendas
Book Title A Research Agenda for Food Systems
Chapter Number 6
ISBN 9781800880252
Keywords 'Farmed' animals; Food systems; Animal agriculture; Technology; Biosecurity; Animal health; Welfare
Public URL
Publisher URL
Additional Information Editor: Colin L. Sage


Author's manuscript (525 Kb)

Copyright Statement
This is a draft chapter. The final version is available in A Research Agenda for Food Systems edited by Colin Sage, published in 2022, Edward Elgar Publishing Ltd<br /><br /> <br /> The material cannot be used for any other purpose without further permission of the publisher, and is for private use only.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations