Wildlife Damage Management, Internet Center for


Date of this Version



Published in Ecological and Environmental Anthropology Vol. 4, No. 1, 2008. Copyright © 2008 Zycherman. Used by permission. Online at http://eea.anthro.uga.edu/index.php/eea/index


Anthropologists have had a long and rich history of drawing out the cultural importance of diet and the beliefs and rituals that are associated with it. Many anthropologists combine this knowledge with biological data to create a more comprehensive understanding of the diet. This skill becomes particularly important in understanding the difficulties of defining terms like food security and food insecurity among vulnerable populations. Popular working definitions focus primarily on the diet as being a nutritious entity that leads to a healthy and active lifestyle. While these definitions weigh heavily on the biological importance of diet, they deal with the issue of culturally relevant foods by using the term ‘food preference’, not considering the possibility that preferential foods and the way they are eaten can be in direct opposition to a nutritious and healthy life style. In the case of Tucumán, Argentina the preference for a beef-centric diet is associated, by government institutions, with malnutrition and a host of other health related problems throughout the province. However, local cultural definitions in Tucumán define food security as having beef as a daily component of the diet. Associated with this definition are various beliefs surrounding health, national identity, and family. Within these definitions Households and individuals are willing to go to great lengths, despite economic and health hardships to insure the daily presence of beef in their everyday lives. The result of these divergent definitions is that one interpretation of food security is understood by another to be food insecurity. This paper is a work in progress and explores how local definitions of food security and food insecurity play a role in daily diet maintenance and how these local definitions may conflict with the broader institutional and nutritionally based definitions.