Per capita meat consumption in post-industrial countries is higher
today than it has been ever since the transition of hunter-gathering
to agriculture, while attitudes toward meat production and animal
killing have become increasingly characterized by moral ambiguity
and disgust. To contribute to our understanding of the genesis of
this meat paradox, this study analyses how mid-nineteenth-century
Belgian meat retailers constructed the image of their product.
Analyzing 54 porcelain cards, uniquely early pictorial business
cards used to advertise, shows how they constructed a very specific
image of meat and its production process, an image in which meat
itself was almost wholly absent. As shifts in the production process
removed the animals behind the urban meat supply further and
further from urbanites’ sight, meat retailers deliberately called upon
images of idealized healthy living animals in profoundly natural
settings. Reminders of the brutal production process were avoided
at all costs. Rather, meat retailers sold the idea of meat consumption as intricately linked to a romanticized pastoral life, where
animals lived free from human constraints or instrumentalization.
This highly paradoxical “naturalisation” process, cutting out all
human intervention in the production of meat, still serves to underpin important cultural aspects of the meat paradox today
Original languageEnglish
JournalFood, Culture & Society
Publication statusPublished - 15 Oct 2021


  • Meat paradox
  • meat
  • porcelain cards
  • advertising
  • nature
  • animal
  • nineteenth century
  • history


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