'Just-in-time' disease: biosecurity, poultry, and power

Allen, John and Lavau, Stephanie (2015). 'Just-in-time' disease: biosecurity, poultry, and power. Journal of Cultural Economy, 8(3) pp. 342–360.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1080/17530350.2014.904243


Disease and profits make for interesting bedfellows in modern factory farming, especially where poultry is concerned. Profitable, cheap factory-farmed chicken is dependent on large-scale, industrial throughput, yet those very same intensive conditions pose real risks for disease outbreaks. Campylobacter in poultry is now the main reported cause of food poisoning in the UK, responsible for more than 100 deaths a year. In this paper, drawing upon fieldwork from across the poultry supply chain, we argue that the intersection of just-in-time pressures, commercial and regulatory, with particular practices of biosecurity on farms and in processing factories, provides prime conditions for the amplification and spread of Campylobacter. We go on to argue that such ecologies of poultry production are best understood as part of a relational economy of disease, and that the very control exercised over the lives of farmed birds risks reversal into ever greater insecurity.

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