Dairy Chains: Consumer Foodways and Agricultural Landscapes

Adele Wessell


Food is significant as an agent of social change as well as being the subject of activism. The focus of this paper is on nature’s “perfect food”, milk, in the 1950s, a period of social transition that offers fertile space for reconstructing food activism and giving it a history. Australia’s dairy industry is the country’s largest processed food industry and the fourth largest of the nation’s rural industries. Milk is a fruitful site to consider the relationship between people and their food, production and consumption, the intimate way we bring our food into our bodies and the experience of farmers with personal connections to the ecosystems in which they live. Dense networks connect farm producers and consumers. The dairy industry will be considered as a site of production and consumption where considerable political activity was concentrated in the 1950s. These themes are illuminated in the paper by briefly considering two groups of women caught up in very different family labour systems defined by their relationship to milk – housewives active in the state associations campaigning around milk prices and quality and farm women. The transformation of rural life, home and food culture during this period impacted on both groups of women, it was from their work that they expressed a position and identified, and both engaged in complex processes of negotiation that, I argue, have generated and sustained other movements.


activism; dairy; consumption; housewives

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.1344/co20115251-260


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