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Research article2018Peer reviewedOpen access

Controlling Sustainability in Swedish Beef Production: Outcomes for Farmers and the Environment

Fischer, K.; Röös, E.


Swedish beef and dairy farmers are currently facing a challenging financial situation. Simultaneously, beef farming contributes significant environmental impacts. To support farmers, actors from the whole value chain are now promoting Swedish beef as particularly ‘sustainable’. The paper draws on critical discourse analysis of interviews with and documents from the largest Swedish supermarket chain ICA, Swedish farmer organisations and farmers to study how ICA and farmers articulate sustainability and their responsibility for the same. Articulations are subsequently discussed in the light of actual environmental impacts of beef production and the distribution of power in the beef value chain. The findings suggest that negative environmental impacts and farmers’ struggles are largely hidden in the dominant articulation of sustainability. Furthermore, ICA does not use the power it has to steer consumers toward reduced beef consumption. We conclude with suggesting more open deliberation about current levels of beef sales and consumption and about what compromises to make when striving for ‘sustainable’ beef consumption.


Agriculture; Food regime; Justice; Retail

Published in

Food Ethics
2018, Volume: 2, number: 1, pages: 39-55
Publisher: Springer International Publishing