The multiple ontologies of freshness in the UK and Portuguese agri-food sectors

Peter Jackson, David Evans, Monica Truninger, Angela Meah, Joao Baptista

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

21 Citations (Scopus)
282 Downloads (Pure)


This paper adopts a material‐semiotic approach to explore the multiple ontologies of “freshness” as a quality of food. The analysis is based on fieldwork in the UK and Portugal, with particular emphasis on fish, poultry, and fruit and vegetables. Using evidence from archival research, ethnographic observation and interviews with food businesses (including major retailers and their suppliers) plus qualitative household‐level research with consumers, the paper unsettles the conventional view of freshness as a single, stable quality of food. Rather than approaching the multiplicity of freshness as a series of social constructions (different perspectives on essentially the same thing), we identify its multiple ontologies. The analysis explores their enactment as uniform and consistent, local and seasonal, natural and authentic, and sentient and lively. The paper traces the effects of these enactments across the food system, drawing out the significance of our approach for current and future geographical studies of food.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-93
Number of pages15
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number1
Early online date30 Jul 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


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