This chapter aims to show that the process of changing rules within the capitalist market system, specifically meat safety governance reform in New Zealand and South Africa, raises profound obstacles for human agency, yet opens new spaces for conceptualizing who participates in promoting change. Agency and structure are complex concepts with dueling tensions that alter the form and substance (as Wright and Middendorf argue in their Introduction to this volume) of individual and collective action in the red meat commodity chains of these two countries. We show that, far from being monolithic, the ways in which capitalism and a changing agrifood structure affect actors in a commodity chain, and the ways in which these actors respond, vary across time and space. We hope to make clear the ways in which structures affect agency, but we also aim to show how structural changes open new opportunities for agency.

Document Type

Book Chapter

Publication Date


Publisher Statement

Copyright © 2007 Pennsylvania State University Press. This chapter first appeared in The Fight Over Food: Producers, Consumers, and Activists Challenge the Global Food System.

Please note that downloads of the book chapter are for private/personal use only.

Purchase online at Pennsylvania State University Press.