The Meat You Haven't Met: Exposing the Production - Consumption Gap
Rebecca Soja, Assoc. AIA
The Meat You Haven't Met makes the connection between architecture and the meat industry.
Many meat consumers are unconscious of an intruding architecture and infrastructure that destroys natural landscapes, symbiotic relationships, and local communities in order to support such a sizable industry. Industrial beef producers refuse to acknowledge the serious immediate and long-term ramifications of their desires to control fickle nature through synthetic, manufactured means for economic gain. Furthermore, they employ deceptive imagery in marketing schemes to capitalize on lack of public knowledge. Yet, as contradictions about industrial beef are publicized, consumers demand a more transparent food system. Where can architecture design for consumption intersect with earlier phases of production and processing to link these seemingly disparate yet completely interdependent experiences?
Architecture can be a tool for exposing the social, environmental, economic, and political problems caused by industrial beef production and excessive cultural consumption of beef to promote meaningful change. A narrative is established in which a fictitious beef corporation seeks the expertise of an architect to design a Transparency Tour as part of a green-washing campaign. However, while the intent of the corporation is to mislead consumers to gain loyalty, the architect seizes the opportunity to infiltrate the system and expose realities that would have remained hidden. Subversive design interventions within three stops along the tour deliberately juxtapose production and consumption experiences: the cow/calf operation and steakhouse, the feedlot and fast-food restaurant, and the pack plant and grocery store. The challenge is to deceive the deceiver with unavoidable moments along a predetermined sequence to explicitly force tour people to confront the realities of a complicated, messy network that aren't so easy to digest.