Conduct a ‘commodity chain’ analysis of a single food item that is part of your everyday eating practice. This essay involves some detective work. You need to trace a single foodstuff’s ‘travels’ and ‘costs’ through the food chain, from farm to plate. You should try and uncover the links between production and consumption of this food. The following questions illustrate some of the threads you can focus on in your analysis. You don’t have to follow all of them but you should try to follow at least three:
Production: So you should try and find out the way in which this food is produced and grown and here pay attention to the role of agricultural technology and/or labour that is involved in growing the product. For example, are the raw ingredients grown by small farmers or corporate agri-business? How much does the farmer make in producing this product? What percentage of the retail price goes to the farmer? How are the workers treated in the production of this food?
Processing: Your essay could also detail the steps by which raw ingredients from the farm are transformed into the food product we buy in the supermarket or in a restaurant. How do processers attempt to extend the product’s shelf life (i.e. preservatives, canning, packaging, freezing etc)? Which companies do this processing? What else do they make?
Marketing: How is this product packaged? Advertised? Displayed? And Priced? Who sells the product? Analyse the advertising for images, myths, values, gender issues, stereotypes etc
Consumption: Who consumes this product, how and why? What is the role of this food in the life of the family, community, ethic group, and nation? Also you might think about: Is this product sustainable? Is the product good for me? Safe to eat?
NOTE: This essay topic on the commodity chain analysis is suitable for a group project, for two or three people, as well as individuals. If you are interested in the ‘group’ option, please come and talk to me about it. Answering the question will involve a good amount of research – including library research and web-based materials, and even interviews. You will need to use your imagination and your best detective skills in order to complete the assignment. Even so, you will probably hit some dead-ends in the process. A few dead-ends are acceptable, but if you are having trouble getting any useful information you should choose a different food item/product.