Staff Publications

Staff Publications

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    'Staff publications' is the digital repository of Wageningen University & Research

    'Staff publications' contains references to publications authored by Wageningen University staff from 1976 onward.

    Publications authored by the staff of the Research Institutes are available from 1995 onwards.

    Full text documents are added when available. The database is updated daily and currently holds about 240,000 items, of which 72,000 in open access.

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    Authenticity and the Contradictions of the “Ecotourism Script” : Global Marketing and Local Politics in Ghana
    Büscher, Bram ; Bremer, Renée van den; Fletcher, Robert ; Koot, Stasja - \ 2017
    Critical Arts 31 (2017)4. - ISSN 0256-0046 - p. 37 - 52.
    authenticity - development - ecotourism - Ghana - marketing - politics
    Tourism in Ghana has been developing rapidly over the last decade. By marketing over a dozen “community ecotourism” sites, particularly around monkey and forest sanctuaries, Ghana hopes to attract travellers to spend money in the country and so aid local development and protect natural resources. This paper analyses this trend, outlining several contradictions in the country’s national branding of “authenticity” in ecotourism and how this takes local shape in the case of the Tafi-Atome monkey sanctuary in Eastern Ghana. We propose that actors on different levels in Ghana appear to market and brand ecotourism according to a “script” that directs and influences local ecotourism practices in ways that obscure these contradictions and thereby enable continuation of and belief in the script. We conclude that this “ecotourism script” is central to the promotion and implementation of ecotourism in general, and needed to maintain the belief that the activity is an important conservation and development panacea.
    Contradictions of capitalism in the South African Kalahari : Indigenous Bushmen, their brand and baasskap in tourism
    Koot, Stasja Patoelja - \ 2016
    Journal of Sustainable Tourism 24 (2016)8-9. - ISSN 0966-9582 - p. 1211 - 1226.
    authenticity - branding - capitalism - paternalism - South Africa - South Kalahari Bushmen

    The question of who controls Indigenous tourism is of wide and growing relevance in post-colonial societies, especially in so-called transition economies, that are moving from state-led economies to mostly market-based economies. This paper explores such global–local dynamics for an Indigenous group in South Africa in relation to authenticity, development and power relations. Based on ethnographic fieldwork among the Indigenous South Kalahari Bushmen (≠Khomani) and their interactions with the tourism sector, especially up-market accommodation projects, it questions assumptions that economic and educational benefits will “trickle down” to the poor. It exposes two key contradictions in the capitalist tourist system. The first is that authenticity is opposed to becoming inauthentic; the Bushmen stay “authentic” for tourists who impose modernity as consumers, making the Bushmen merely an “Indigenous brand” that attracts tourists, creating revenue that trickles down into the area but hardly to those who are the brand. The second contradiction is that of poverty alleviation through a system that marginalises the Indigenous, and critically probes the concept of tourism “developing” (educating) Indigenous people. This assumed education is minimal: Bushmen and white managers are entangled in colonial paternalism (baasskap), with managers often lacking broader understanding of development, focusing mainly on economic growth.

    Verification of Egg Farming Systems from the Netherlands and New Zealand Using Stable Isotopes
    Rogers, Karyne M. ; Ruth, Saskia Van; Alewijn, Martin ; Philips, Andy ; Rogers, Pam - \ 2015
    Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 63 (2015)38. - ISSN 0021-8561 - p. 8372 - 8380.
    authenticity - barn - carbon - diet - egg albumen - free range - isotope - Netherlands - New Zealand - nitrogen - organic - supermarket

    Stable isotopes were used to develop authentication criteria of eggs laid under cage, barn, free range, and organic farming regimens from The Netherlands and New Zealand. A training set of commercial poultry feeds and egg albumen from 49 poultry farms across The Netherlands was used to determine the isotopic variability of organic and conventional feeds and to assess trophic effects of these corresponding feeds and barn, free range, and organic farming regimens on corresponding egg albumen. A further 52 brands of New Zealand eggs were sampled from supermarket shelves in 2008 (18), 2010 (30), and 2014 (4) to characterize and monitor changes in caged, barn, free range, and organic egg farming regimens. Stable carbon (δ13C) and nitrogen (δ15N) isotopes of 49 commercial poultry feeds and their corresponding egg albumens reveals that Dutch poultry are fed exclusively on a plant-based feed and that it is possible to discriminate between conventional and organic egg farming regimens in The Netherlands. Similarly, it is possible to discriminate between New Zealand organic and conventional egg farming regimens, although in the initial screening in 2008, results showed that some organic eggs had isotope values similar to those of conventional eggs, suggesting hens were not exclusively receiving an organic diet. Dutch and New Zealand egg regimens were shown to have a low isotopic correlation between both countries, because of different poultry feed compositions. In New Zealand, both conventional and organic egg whites have higher δ15N values than corresponding Dutch egg whites, due to the use of fishmeal or meat and bone meal (MBM), which is banned in European countries. This study suggests that stable isotopes (specifically nitrogen) show particular promise as a screening and authentication tool for organically farmed eggs. Criteria to assess truthfulness in labeling of organic eggs were developed, and we propose that Dutch organic egg whites should have a minimum δ15N value of 4.8‰ to account for an organic plant derived diet. Monitoring of New Zealand egg isotopes over the past 7 years suggests that organic eggs should have a minimum δ15N value of 6.0‰, and eggs falling below this value should be investigated further by certification authorities.

    Voedsel met integriteit : tussen echtheid en eigenheid
    Ruth, S.M. van - \ 2014
    Wageningen : Wageningen University, Wageningen UR - ISBN 9789461739704 - 24
    authenticiteit - voedsel - voedselanalyse - voedselethiek - voedselveiligheid - authenticity - food - food analysis - food ethics - food safety
    Saskia van Ruth, Professor of Food Authenticity and Integrity
    Ruth, S.M. van - \ 2014
    Wageningen UR
    voedselanalyse - voedselsamenstelling - voedseltechnologie - authenticiteit - analytische methoden - detectie - food analysis - food composition - food technology - authenticity - analytical methods - detection
    Saskia van Ruth, Professor of Food Authenticity and Integrity, works on analytical methods that make it easier to detect food fraud.
    Voedselfraudeur ontmaskerd (interview met Saskia van Ruth en Rita Boerrigter-Eenling)
    Smit, A. ; Ruth, S.M. van; Boerrigter-Eenling, G.R. - \ 2014
    WageningenWorld 2014 (2014)1. - ISSN 2210-7908 - p. 28 - 31.
    biologische voedingsmiddelen - authenticiteit - dranken - voedselanalyse - identificatie - voedseltechnologie - melkproducten - voedselinspectie - organic foods - authenticity - beverages - food analysis - identification - food technology - milk products - food inspection
    Producenten die sjoemelen met de herkomst van levensmiddelen kunnen vaker op het matje worden geroepen. RIKILT Wageningen UR ontwikkelt steeds meer tests die duidelijk maken waar de ingrediënten vandaan komen én of ze wel echt op biologische wijze zijn gemaakt. Koffie en eieren blijken wat dat betreft verrassend herkenbaar.
    Authenticity research and label control are inevitable parts of proper food and feed safety
    Raamsdonk, L.W.D. van; Jong, J. de; Veer, G. van der; Scholtens-Toma, I.M.J. ; Noordam, M.Y. ; Ruth, S.M. van - \ 2013
    voedselveiligheid - authenticiteit - controles op etikettering - voedingsmiddelen - food safety - authenticity - labelling controls - foods
    Authenticity research and label control, conform Regulation (EC) 767/2009 (feed), Directive 2000/13/EC (food) and Directive 2001/110/EC (honey) a.o., are necessary for enforcement of legal limits, and provide guidance for applying the proper detection methods. Consumer protection and information will be facilitated in this way. Three examples will be presented to illustrate this importance.
    Sensing food fraud from analytical chemistry and criminological perspectives
    Ruth, S.M. van; Huisman, W. ; Luning, P.A. - \ 2013
    voedselveiligheid - authenticiteit - herkomst - analytische scheikunde - forensische wetenschap - food safety - authenticity - provenance - analytical chemistry - forensic science
    The joint investigation of analytical opportunities for authentication and understanding the influece of peoples’ motives and agri-food chain context characteristics on fraud, will provide input for a new approach towards fraud risks assessment for food industries and regulators.
    Speuren in het allerkleinste (interview met Grishja van der Veer)
    Veer, Grishja van der - \ 2012
    stable isotopes - forensic science - authenticity - analytical methods - food analysis - isotopes
    Authenticiteit van Boeren-Leidse kaas : analytische test om kaas met beschermde oorsprong te verifiëren
    Ruth, S.M. van - \ 2012
    Wageningen : RIKILT - Intstitute of Food Safety
    kazen - voedselanalyse - voedseltechnologie - streekgebonden producten - massaspectrometrie - geur en smaak - authenticiteit - cheeses - food analysis - food technology - regional specialty products - mass spectrometry - flavour - authenticity
    Binnen het onderzoeksinstituut RIKILT, onderdeel van Wageningen University & Research Centre, is een methode ontwikkeld om de identiteit van de Europees beschermde oorsprongsbenamingskaas 'Boeren-Leidse kaas met sleutels' te kunnen typeren en te verifiëren. De vingerafdruk van de vluchtige stoffen (het aroma) van de kaas wordt hierbij gebruikt om onderscheid te maken tussen Boeren-Leidse kaas met sleutels en andere komijnekazen met vergelijkbaar vetgehalte en rijpingsduur. De niet-destructieve methode behoeft een snelle scan van de lucht boven de kaas met behulp van Proton Transfer Reaction Mass Spectrometry. De fingerprints worden opgeslagen in een database en uiteindelijk vergeleken met behulp van statistische methoden.
    Prediction of the identity of fats and oils by their fatty acid, triacylglycerol and volatile compositions using PLS-DA
    Ruth, S.M. van; Villegas, B. ; Akkermans, W. ; Rozijn, M. ; Kamp, H.J. van der; Koot, A.H. - \ 2010
    Food Chemistry 118 (2010)4. - ISSN 0308-8146 - p. 948 - 955.
    reaction mass-spectrometry - trace gas-analysis - dairy-products - ptr-ms - authenticity - chromatography
    The identity of a variety of animal fats and vegetable oils was predicted by three different analytical techniques with help of chemometrics. The sample material of animal origin consisted of milk fat, cow fat, pig fat and poultry fat. The vegetable oils comprised coconut, palm and palm kernel oils. Each product group was composed of at least eight samples of independent batches. For the identity prediction of the fats/oils several (combinations of) datasets were used: absolute and relative measurements of fatty acid compositions, of triacylglycerol compositions, and of combined fatty acid and triacylglycerol compositions. Volatile organic compound compositions were used as well. Fatty acid and triacylglycerol compositions were determined by gas chromatography. Fingerprints of volatile compositions were acquired using Proton transfer reaction-mass spectrometry. The rates of successful prediction were high and varied between 89 and 100%. The 100% rate was obtained for the absolute combined fatty acid/triacylglycerol dataset. Proton transfer reaction-mass spectrometry resulted in 89% correct classifications, has the advantage that it allows very rapid measurements compared to the other techniques, but requires further studies
    Consumer evaluations of products from developing countries
    Verlegh, P.W.J. - \ 2002
    In: The Challenge of Global Chains / van Amerongen, E., Wageningen : Wageningen Academic Publishers - p. 58 - 62.
    globalisering - ontwikkelingslanden - consumentengedrag - houding van consumenten - voedselproducten - authenticiteit - globalization - developing countries - consumer behaviour - consumer attitudes - food products - authenticity
    Consumers use country of origin as a signal or proxy for product quality. Consumers have little confidence in the ability of less developed countries to produce high quality goods. On the other hand emotionally attachment to a country or associations of "exoticness" or "authenticity" can lead to a positive evaluation of this country's products. Furthermore consumers may feel a moral obligation to buy goods from specific countries. The impact of these cognitive, affective and normative factors that may influence consumers' evaluation of products from less developed countries is discussed
    Circuits in de landbouwvoedselketen : verscheidenheid en samenhang in de productie en vermarkting van rundvlees in Midden-Italië
    Meulen, H.S. van der - \ 2000
    Agricultural University. Promotor(en): J.D. van der Ploeg. - Wageningen : Wageningen Universiteit, Circle for European Studies - ISBN 9789058083043 - 321
    rundvlees - vleesproductie - marketing - italië - economische productie - authenticiteit - beef - meat production - marketing - italy - economic production - authenticity

    This PhD-thesis describes the diversity and coherence in the beef chain of the Central-Italian region of Umbria as co-existing circuits of interlinked cattle farmers, butchers and consumers. A circuit represents a specific and stereotypical way in which the production annex marketing of a agri-food product is organised. The main hypothesis is that within a geographically delimitated chain of an agri-food product usually a limited number of clearly different vertical segments - circuits - can be distinguished. A second assumption is that successive actors in the chain have a shared conception of the right quality of the product, and that this shared conception is essential to their commercial connectedness.

    The circuits approach developed in this book elaborates on the styles of farming research of the Rural Sociology Group of Wageningen University. Thereby, the application of its basic notions of style and diversity shifts from the level of primary production to that of the entire chain. In the same line, the circuit approach tries to integrate basic notions from the Frech-Italian filière research tradition, in which emphasis is placed on meso-economic systemic coherences and the regional development context, into the micro-economic and casuistic Anglo-Saxon approach which presently dominates the debate.

    The research method is essentially descriptive in nature: the focus is on the existing diversity of stereotypical modes of vertical organisation within the commodity system of a specific agro-food product. Diversity is seen as a positive phenomenon and not as a number of deviations form an alledged technical-economic optimum. The function of describing diversity is first of all that of an eye-opener. In the circuit approach, implicitely, particular attention is paid to the 'hidden' circuits, either traditional or recent ones, because they may bear or inspire solutions for actual problems.This implies a critical attitude towards the main stream of the product in question, which in fact may be composed of different circuits itself.

    Practical results

    On the basis of extensive interviews and surveys in the Umbrian beef chain the following circuits have been identified.

    In the direct circuit small-scale farmers, and the so-called arrangioni in particular, sell large packages of beef directly to consumers: neighbours, friends, and other interested families. The consumers attach much importance to the fact that they know exactly where their beef comes from (traceability), and that they can eventually check personally how it is produced (inspectability). The small scale of production (about 10 bulls per year), the use of traditional fodder like alfalfa, barley, and corn, and the fact that farm family itself consumes the same beef are important quality parameters to the consumers.The artisanal circuit is organised around the so-called traditional butchers who buy beef cattle from small-scale breeders of the indigenous Chianina cattle. The desired genuinità (purity, authenticity) of this carne nostrale (beef from own area) is determined by the relatively small scale of production (about 30 bulls per year), the use of traditional forragi aziendali (farm made fodder), and the highly appreciated Chianina breed. At the level of the butcher's shop a good frollatura (hanging and ripening) is considered essential to obtain the full taste from the primary matter and to render it more tender. The consumers of the artisanal circuit are mainly countrymen and elderly people. Butchers describe them as intenditori (connoisseurs). They know, for instance, the positive relationship between fat and taste. They also "still know how to make a good stew".In the scientized circuit so called modern butchers play a central role. They order their slaughter cattle from regional ingrassatori : holders of large-scale feedlots. The 'scientific' character of the circuit is high-lighted by the meticulous calculation of the feed rations in the feedlots and the analysis of the beef samples on toxic residuals after slaughtering. Butchers say their clients - mainly young and high-income people - "eat with the lips", i.e. they prefer very tender and juicy beef. These characteristics are obtained, amongst others, through intramuscular fat infiltration during the last weeks of the fattening period. Further, modern butchers make a good profit on their piatti pronti (ready-made dishes), which allow them to add value to the tougher cuts that would else remain in the counter. The consumers in the scientized circuit attach importance to quality hallmarks like " Carni Umbri di Qualità ", to which most modern butchers adhere.The anonymous circuit pivots around the so-called import butchers. They order their beef, sometimes already sectioned and vacuumed, from wholesale dealers. The wholesalers obtain the beef from large-scale feedlots or through slaughterhouses in Northern Italy and abroad. Butchers in the anonymous circuit are ignorant of the exact origin. They say consumers tend to "eat with the eyes", since they prefer light coloured beef with no visible fat (which they assume to be tender). The low price of the meat and its convenience (in sectioning and cooking) are important criteria to both the consumers and the butchers.The integrated circuit is organised by the meat divisions of some supermarket chains, in this research represented by Coop Italia. Coop Italia's central meat division enters contracts with a number of large-scale feedlots and slaughterhouses in Italy and abroad. Within this 'integration' all stages of production, processing and distribution are precisely prescribed and controlled by the retailer. It establishes the prices in the counters of its stores and promotes the beef hallmark " carne con amore ". The clients of the Coop Italia supermarkets are one-stop shoppers who care for quickness and convenience. Compared to other categories of consumers, they are not very worried about the genuineness of the beef.

    The direct circuit covers an estimated 4% of the fresh beef market of Umbria, and it is growing. The artisanal circuit has a market share of about 20%, the scientized circuit 15%, and the anonymous circuit 10%. De butchers who could not be classified in one of the three "butcher styles" (traditional, modern or import) account for 35% of the market. The supermarkets hold 15% of the fresh beef market, of which the integrated circuit has an estimated 3%. This was the situation in 1992. Up till now the share of supermarkets will have increased to about 25%.

    The practical value of the circuits approach for matters of common or public interest has been demonstrated by means of a scenario-study. The effects of a substantial extension of the artisanal circuit have been compared to those of an equal extension of the scientized circuit, substituting the actual 4.2 million kg of beef imports. These two major circuits in the Umbrian beef chain are both characterised by region-based primary production. In the first case, called the Chianina scenario, 1,200 additional jobs and 2.0 million Euro of Net Value Added would be generated, against 100 jobs and a negative income of 0.63 million Euro in the feedlot scenario. In the Chianina scenario another 3.4 million Euro of EU-premiums for suckling cows and fatting bulls can be added to the region's economic balance (1992 prices). With higher beef prices and premiums (1994 situation) the Chianina scenario yields 4.4 million Euro of Net Value Added, plus 4.3 million of premiums, against 0.59 million in the feedlot scenario.

    Economic and social side effects of the scenarios have not been quantified, but there is little doubt about the superior performance of the Chianina scenario with respect to environmental pressure, preservation of the landscape and the image of Umbria as a quality food producer. These external economies can hardly be overestimated, since tourism is becoming the major employer in the region.

    Two important conditions to the safeguarding and extension of the artisanal circuit are, first, granting the farmers their traditional access to mountain pastures that now risk to become enclosed in nature reserves and thus subject to degradation, and second, the maintenance of a sufficient number of local slaughterhouses. It was on the basis of the results of this research, amongst other pressures, that in 1994 the regional administration decided to postpone the planned 'rationalisation' of small-scale slaughter plants.

    Theoretic results

    Each of the above circuits represents a number of similarly organized commercial networks, called chain networks , in the Umbrian beef commodity system. A chain network is supposed to be organised around one central actor, the centre of command or principle agent , usually the retailer, and includes all primary actors (defined as those who hold title at some moment in the chain) involved. The coherence of a chain network is determined by the mutual agreement among the vertically linked actors about the definition of quality, operationalised here as the relative importance attached to criteria like taste, tenderness, colour, genuineness, production method, breed, convenience, and price. Chain networks of the same type, i.e. belonging of the same circuit, share the same quality definition and organisational logic.

    It is argued that the involvement of primary actors with an agri-food product, such as beef, will tendentially decrease going downstream, from producer to consumer. For a breeders his cattle may be the only source of income, but for a butcher it is one of at least five different types of meat he offers, whereas for a household beef will constitutes one of the hundred food items that it buys during a week. This phenomenon is coined here as the law of diminishing involvement in the chain. The unequal involvement and unequal dependence between the actors of different stages in the chain corresponds an assymetric knowledge of the production process and assymetric influence on the actual 'construction' of quality. The actors with the biggest interests will try to promote their own product, transferring part of their knowledge, whereas the less interested actors (consumers) tend to 'follow' the supply (linking themselves to specific selling points rather than specific versions of the beef). Opposite to the law of diminishing involvement stands the downstream imperative , which says that every buyer holds a dominant position vis-à-vis his supplier(s). I argue that in a stable chain network both effects are more or less balanced. The balance is found when all participants have a keen interest in continuing the existing relationships. Suppliers look for guarantees because of their sunk cost investments, and buyers want guarantees about the quality, especially for a product like beef, which they find difficult to evaluate. Continuity is reinforced through the creation of habits and through the creation of personal, emotional bonds.

    The continuity of the bond between primary actors in a chain network presupposes mutual trust. The way in which this trust is created differs from one circuit to another. Central in the artisanal circuit are long lasting, personal relations between breeders and their butcher and between butcher and clients. In the scientized circuit the label "Carni Umbri di Qualità" , which guarantees standardisation and laboratory checks, plays an important trust-inspiring role. In the anonymous circuit trust and coherence seem to be developed weakly. This is why the butchers of this circuit suffer more than their colleagues from competition of nearby supermarkets. In the integrated circuit trust is installed by means of the contracts between the supermarket and farmers and slaughterhouses in which the mutual interests are laid down. To consumers the reputation of the supermarket and the quality label on the 'integrated' beef are the trust enhancers.

    The differences in the creation of trust are reflected in the structure of transaction costs, i.e. the costs that a supplier or buyer must sustain on top of the nominal price in order to get transactions done. In some circuits a lot of time is invested in the development and maintenance of personal bonds, whereas in other circuits time and money is lost in the negotiation about contracts and the enforcement of compliance. Relevant for the circuits approach, and may be in general, is not so much the hight of these governance costs - they may be equal in different circuits - but the specific form they have. The specificity of the 'code of conduct' in a circuit determines the relative autonomy and competitive advantage of its chain networks vis-à-vis the networks of other circuits, just like the specificity of the physical resources of a circuit adds to this relative autonomy. Both imply additional costs in case an actor (or an entire chain network) switches to the network of a different circuit, the so-called transformation costs (which come on top of the mere switching costs that he has to sustain anyway, also when he enters a new network within the same circuit.)

    A certain degree of internal coherence and co-ordination, here called systemness, is essential to the functioning of a chain network. It reflects a good tuning of the mutual economic interests and of considerations about quality. The degree of systemness is considered to be a function of two dimensions: the intensity of commercial interactions (frequency, duration, and load) and the degree of regulation of those contacts (planning of supply and demand, hierarchy, formal rules). This decomposition allows for a graphic projection of the different circuits of an agri-food product, which illustrates the relative competitive advantage of each of them. Thus, the artisanal circuit of the Umbrian beef chain, for instance, has a high score on the intensity dimension, reflecting strong personal bonds between the primary actors, whilst the integrated circuit has a high score on the regulation dimension, reflecting the use of formal contracts and long distance relationships, but is low on intensity.

    The intensity and regulation dimensions are not completely independent of each other; tendentially, there is a trade-off. When, for instance, the scale (distance, number of actors) of a chain network increases, intensity will normally diminish, and therefore regulation has to increase, if actors strive to maintain the same degree of systemness.

    In the analysis of systemness, besides the social-transactional aspect, the physical-economic aspect must be considered. In the direct circuit of the Umbrian beef chain, for instance, the investment by consumers in large home freezers, makes it possible and at the same time profitable for them to buy larger quantities of beef in one visit, being the packages that direct selling farmers offer. Such unique material elements of a circuit together constitute its specific infrastructure. Together with the specific social institutions (habits and conventions, which structure the commercial relationships of a circuit in a more invisible way) they constitute the circuit-specific resources .

    The analysis of systemness applies in the first place to the level of the chain network, but occasionally it may be relevant at the level of the circuit too, namely when there is a coherence within an geographically bound collection of similar chain networks. This clearly is the case in the scientized circuit of the Umbrian beef chain, because of the co-ordinating role of the Butchers Association of Perugia (capital of Umbria). It has a strong impact on the definition of quality through the professional courses it organizes, the hallmark it controls, and the wholesale service it provides to its members. All the other circuits are merely categorical denominators.

    From a systemness analysis no conclusions can be drawn about the fitness of a particular circuit. Although a certain degree of systemness is primordial, high systemness is not equal to good performance. Fitness or medium term survival depends on the dynamics in the market environment (an environment that, in turn, is partly shaped by the actors of the circuit). In a quickly changing environment (legislation, technology, consumption pattern) loosely organised chain networks are expected to have better perspectives, whereas in a stable situation tight relations do. In the first case flexibility and low transformation costs are crucial, in the second case efficiency in production and logistics and low governance costs of transactions determine the competitive advantage. In general, a very high degree of systemness of vertical relations leads to rigidity and a loss of self-renewing capacity, whilst a very low degree of systemness leads to uncertainty and a bad tuning of the successive actions throuhout the chain.

    Definition framework

    The early definitions of circuit in the French and Italian filière literature are quite superficial. The same holds true for many other "chain terms". Four variables have been developed in order to describe the analytical scope of a chain term rather exhaustively:

    level of aggregation, or horizontal extension (geographically; numbers),level of integration, or vertical extension,degree of inclusion, or systemic extension,focus, or thematic extension.

    The term circuit can thus be defined as a vertical segment of the macro-economic chain (or commodity system) of a single agri-food product. It comprises all similarly organised chain networks within a delimitated area. It comprises the actions in all stages, from producers to consumers. The degree of inclusion is limited to the primary actors, i.e. those who take part in the buying and selling of the product. At the level of the circuit overall actors who exclusively operate for this circuit are considered as if they were primary actors. The focus of the circuits approach is on production as well as marketing processes. Characteristic of the approach is, further, the focus on diversity and differentiation. Therefore, a circuit always is analysed in comparison to other, competing circuits for the same product in the same area.

    On the basis of the first two variables, integration and aggregation, the so-called chain frame has been designed, which allows for a rough visualisation of any chain term (see Figure 2.2).

    Fig. 2.2

    The circuits approach requires a clear and motivated geographic delimitation of the research area. Circuits are always defined in a specific geographical and socio-economic context; they never are universal. In the case of the Central Italian beef sector, the administrative borders of the Region of Umbria have been chosen. A consequence of the geografical boundedness of the circuits approach is that chain networks that extend beyond the borders of the area are only partially analized. Only the consumers and their direct suppliers are considered. The question remains whether this really distorts the picture of a circuit or not. The anonymous circuit in the Umbrian beef chain is anonymous in the very perception of its butchers and consumers.

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