This paper examines issues surrounding the values of farmers, consumers, chefs, and other food activists who are working to expand the production and consumption of pastured pork in central North Carolina (a region known as the Piedmont). What I try to demonstrate in this paper are the ways that an “ethics of care” (Heath and Meneley 2010) is often articulated in terms of the cultural categories of “connection” and “authenticity.” These consciously expressed categories are shown to undergird a range of commitments, from concerns about animal welfare, to support for “local” economies, to parental care for children. My discussion considers the relationships among the lives of animals and the meat they yield, as well as the craft that brings about that transformation, and shows how the ethical questions embedded in these relationships and processes depend upon a wider set of cultural practices and values that are pressing concerns in our larger economy and society. I further consider how examining everyday understandings of “connection” and “authenticity,” as revealed in ethnographic work with farmers, consumers, restaurateurs, and other food activists in the Piedmont, can highlight certain tensions within this “ethics of care”—such as tensions about food taboos and certification processes—that speak to the politics of food activism in the region and elsewhere.
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