In a recent article published in the academic journal Relaciones Internacionales Domenica Farinella and Giulia Simula show how the exploitation of humans and nature for the production of cheap milk is connected to the different phases of integration in global capitalism.
Throughout the paper, the authors reconstruct the path towards the production of “cheap milk” in Sardinia, processed mainly into Pecorino Romano for international export. We argue that the production of ecological surplus through the exploitation of nature and labour has been central to capital accumulation and to the unfolding of the capitalist world ecology. However, we have reached a point of crisis where pastoralists are trapped between rising costs and eroding revenues. Further exploitation of human (cheap labour) and extra-human (nature and animals) factors is becoming unsustainable for the great majority, leading to polarization between livestock producers who push towards further intensification and mechanisation and pastoralists who increasingly de-commodify to build greater autonomy.
Nature, land and animals have been reconfigured throughout the different phases of agro-ecological transformation and capitalist expansion. Pastoralists and women are now paying the higher price and profits are increasingly concentrated in the processing and distribution phase of the chain.
The essay is based on empirical data collected in the PASTRES research site of Sardinia and it is the result of a conversation between two women researchers and several years of research. You can read the full essay here: