Digests of Academic Papers Relevant to Burning Questions

Tiny Beam Fund produces plain-language digests of academic papers

Each digest focuses on 1-3 recent (published within the last five years) peer-reviewed journal articles relevant to particular burning questions.

The unique feature of these digests is that key points and important information in a paper that are especially relevant to burning questions are presented in bullets in plain language.

New digests are produced in-house every two months.

September 2019 Digest


  1. “Meat consumption and capitalist development: The meatification of food provision and practice in Vietnam.” Hansen, Arve. (2019)
    • This paper’s findings bring to light certain omissions and blemishes in a narrative often used by advocates. This narrative paints the picture that it is primarily individual consumers’ personal desire for more “cheap meat” (especially consumers in fast-growing emerging economies) that drives up factory farming globally. Individuals are often cast as the chief instigators and culprits.
    • Using Vietnam as a case study, this paper reveals a reality that is much more layered and nuanced. The plot line is actually quite complex, involving factors that are equally – if not more – important than the taste buds and pocketbook of individuals.
    • So, in a narrative explaining why there is more factory farming and more meat consumption in Vietnam, what features should be highlighted?
      1. Government support for industrial-scale animal agriculture in order to grow the economy:
        Developing international trade and foreign investments to build Vietnam’s economy and tackle rural poverty is among the government’s top priorities. The government thinks animal agriculture can play an important part in this strategy. Expanding livestock production also helps to feed a growing population.
      2. The critical role of international trade, foreign investments, and large conglomerates in initiating the change in the pattern of food/meat consumption:
        Revving up the country’s food-related exports and imports, opening up the country to foreign investors, retailers, franchises, together with the creation of a new food supply chain structure has resulted in profound changes to Vietnamese people’s food choices, consumption habits and behaviors, and the meaning they bestow on certain food. These new trends happen to include considerably more meat.
      3. Food/meat consumption is essentially a social (rather than private, individual) activity and practice:
        In purchasing and selecting the kinds of food for their daily meals and special occasions, people in Vietnam are motivated by a range of external factors, from what is available in the marketplace and their neighborhood, to the length of time they take to commute to work. This is consistent with long-standing consumer research evidence that shows consumption is guided to a large extent by a host of social contexts, customs, and circumstances rather than driven chiefly by an individual’s own insatiable and innate craving for a particular consumer goods (e.g. meat). In recent decades an interplay of social factors have turned meat-intensive food into the preferred choice of many Vietnamese people.
  2. “The ticking clock: Addressing farm animal welfare in emerging countries.” von Keyserlingk, Marina, and A. Hötzel (2015)
    • The paper reminds one of issues that are often not sufficiently emphasized in discussions on farm animal welfare in emerging economies, especially Brazil. For example:
      • The social dimension of sustainable agriculture (including farm animal welfare which is a social and ethical concern).
      • The need to figure out whether solutions used in developed countries can be applied successfully to emerging economies.
      • The importance of engaging with and having the consensus of the public, farmers, and all other stakeholders.
      • The need to take into consideration the fact that farm workers in emerging economies generally receive minimal education.
      • The value of government investment in natural and social sciences research.
      • The need for highly trained and qualified persons to facilitate animal welfare reforms.

July 2019 Digest


  1. “Re-evaluating food systems and food security: A global perspective.” Lawrence, Geoffrey. (2017)
    • This paper helps one understand two overarching developments or “macro-processes” that play key roles in driving the formation of global industrial food systems (including industrial production of food animals) and the introduction of such system into low- and middle-income countries. They are: 1. Neoliberal globalization, 2. Financialization.
  2. “Livestock production and the water challenge of future food supply: Implications of agricultural management and dietary choices.” Weindl, Isabelle, Benjamin Leon Bodirsky, Susanne Rolinski, Anne Biewald, Hermann Lotze-Campen, Christoph Müller, Jan Philipp Dietrich, et al. (2017)
    • This paper highlights and quantifies how four things are linked in various regions of the world: 1. Production of food animals (including intensive production); 2. Dietary changes and choices; 3. Agricultural water consumption; 4. Water protection policies.
    • More specifically, it argues that if one is concerned about the problem of animal agriculture (especially intensive food animal production) affecting global water resources, then changing people’s diets is not enough. Policies to protect water resources are needed.
  3. “Meat consumption in China and its impact on international food security: Status quo, trends, and policies.” Yu, Xiaohua. (2015)
    • This is an Editorial that introduces a special issue of a journal. The topics covered in this special issue include:
      • Meat consumption trends: 1) Income elasticity. 2) Consumption away from home. 3) Food safety certification. 4) Slow down of rate of meat consumption.
      • Meat production trends: 1) Large-scale pig farms. 2) Environmental and technical efficiency. 3) Non-point source pollution.
      • Importing feed grains rather than directly importing meat.
      • Trends in price of meat products: 1) Meat price’s importance in consumer price index. 2) Major role played by the government. 3) Changes in pork price affecting scale of pig production. 4) Close connection of meat price and feed price.
      • Discrepancies in statistics related to meat production and consumption, especially related to pork.

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