Amherst College Professor Deborah Gewertz Publishes New Book on “Cheap Meat”

December 2009

AMHERST, Mass. — Deborah Gewertz, the G. Henry Whitcomb Professor of Anthropology at AmherstCollege, and Frederick Errington, a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Emeritus, at TrinityCollege in Hartford, Conn., are the authors of Cheap Meat:  Flap Food Nations in the Pacific Islands (University of California Press, 2009, $55 hardcover/$21.95 paperback).

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The book follows the trade in inexpensive, fatty cuts of lamb or mutton, called “flaps,” from the farms of New Zealand and Australia to the Pacific Islands of Papua New Guinea, Tonga and Fiji, where they have become prominent as an affordable source of protein and have been incorporated into local dining and gift-giving customs. This trade has stirred controversy and public policy changes, as most people in more affluent nations consider the flaps unfit for human consumption and the flaps are suspected of contributing to rising rates of obesity and other health problems in the islands. The authors address the evolution of the meat trade itself, along with the changing practices of exchange in the region. 

“Gewertz and Errington unpack the aspirations and anxieties, calculations and controversies that inhabit an inexpensive cut of fatty meat. … They evenhandedly map the divergent perspectives of commercial traders, government officials and ordinary consumers acting within a contested material and moral economy,” says Robert Foster, author of Coca-Globalization: Following Soft Drinks from New York to New Guinea. “Cheap Meat provides a startling view of how global food markets fashion the bodies and identities of people everywhere.”

At AmherstCollege, Gewertz teaches courses on social anthropology, visual anthropology, anthropology and gender and the anthropology of food. She holds a Ph.D. from the City University of New York and has done extensive fieldwork in Papua New Guinea since the 1970s. She is the author, with Errington, of Yali's Question: Sugar, Culture, and History (2004) and Twisted Histories, Altered Contexts: Representing the Chambri in a World System (1991), among other books about the people of Papua New Guinea. The authors’ research for Cheap Meat was funded in part by a 2006 grant from the National Science Foundation.

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