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The Connotations of an Artisan

The Connotations of an Artisan

Artisan is a word that has been received much usage and attention in the past decade. According to Merriam-Webster dictionary, artisan is defined as “A worker who practices a trade or a handicraft; one that produces something (as cheese or wine) in limited quantities often using traditional methods’. By this definition, it seems that the word artisan is given to an individual, not a process.  This would rule out the act of slaughtering and butchering being called artisan. To me, when I hear the word ‘Artisan’ I think of something unique, crafty, limited and rare. It makes the item become glorified. I do not like the idea of butchering and slaughtering being glorified. I think that humane slaughtering should be respected. After reading Giedion, it is even more apparent that over the decades of industrial livestock, animals were slaughtered in ways that induced fear.  In using the inclined plane, Giedion notes that the animals are likely to become suspicious and resistant to stopping on the plane. This clearly illustrates that the animals are stressed and do experience some form of suffering. I believe the word artisan should be connected with a person or product rather than a process. However, just because a meat product (let’s say sausage) is labeled as an ‘artisanal’ product does not mean that the animal was slaughtered in a respectable way.


Giedion, Siegfried, “Mechanizaion and Death: Meat” Mechanization Takes Command, NY: Oxford University Press, 1948.

Merriam-Webster, “Artisan” accessed June 21, 2014

Hi Amanda,

Very interesting post.  You bring out some of the problems associated with the word "artisan" in its relationship to death in this case, with the potential of glorifying the slaughter process.  I don't disagree, and I appreciate your distinction about keeping the word related to the person and not the process, something I haven't considered.  Here is what I am wondering: Can we bring back a sense of respect and animal welfare back to the end-of-life scenario without also in some way conveying respect and better-than-rock-bottom societal status to the people who are engaged in the slaughtering and butchering processes on a daily basis? Perhaps "artisanal" is not the way to do it.  I leave that as a question.

Thanks for the thoughtfulness of your post here.


Hi Philip, I would hope we are able to bring back some respect in this process. If I were to make the regulations just on slaughtering, I would require that the animal show no stress or fear prior to slaughtering, no suffer pain (perform the process extremly quickly) and not slaughter an animal too young or preagnant. As far as the processing is concerned I would just require that all of the animal is used in some way. 


Fascinating perspective. I think its interesting that both Vanessa and myself, the Caribbean Contingent if you will, called the small scale butchery we have observed on our islands as artisanal.  I don’t know if that is a cultural coincidence or that our exposure to meat is either hugely global as mass produced imports or the colloquial butcher whose skill is rare and limited.

I also think sometimes calling describing a product as “artisan” caters it towards a niche market and can limit access to those that can afford niche products. That would be my worry in labeling meat as artisan meat. 

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