On eating raw chicken: Competing ontologies of risky gastronomy

Authors: Benjamin Schrager*, University of Hawaii at Manoa
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Political Geography
Keywords: Probiotic, chicken, food risk, food safety, ontology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 3:05 PM / 4:45 PM
Room: Washington 2, Marriott, Exhibition Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

In Southern Kyushu, Japan, some restaurants serve the local delicacies of chicken sashimi (raw) and chicken tataki (tartare). The revulsion that many in the US feel to the thought of eating raw chicken meat results from an ontology rooted in the conventional antibiotic approach to food safety in which dangerous microbes cause sickness. Yet there is a growing awareness of a shift in health management that embraces what geographers have variously called post-Pasteurian, post-humanistic, and the probiotic turn. Instead of seeing microbes as the enemy, this new approach strives to cultivate good bacteria, to be probiotic as opposed to anti. Returning to the example of chicken sashimi, this paper explores the different ontologies through which people make sense of eating raw chicken in Japan. The probiotic turn holds little sway, but people often invoke folk wisdom that resembles probiotic logic. These folk claims include observations that locals do not get sick because they grew up eating chicken sashimi and that susceptibility to food poisoning from raw chicken varies from person to person. In contrast, the antibiotic ontology dominates government policies. Aside from these health ontologies, the logic of capitalism remains the driving force behind chicken sashimi. Businesses make more money if they can sell chicken sashimi and avoid government sanctions from food poisoning incidents. With rising enthusiasm for local cuisine and culinary tourism, increasing numbers of consumers mistakenly assume that the conventional antibiotic approach to health management underpins chicken sashimi.

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