Go back to article: Refrigerating India


The refrigerator’s powerful time-saving and food preserving potentials are eroding deeply anchored ideas about diet and health in India. The infrastructural tentacles of refrigeration are taking root and bringing with them the same dramatic changes in food production, delivery and consumption that we have seen in the rich countries of the world. In these places where refrigeration has taken hold, people find it hard to imagine a daily life without them. The refrigerator does save time, reduce the drudgery of constant trips to the market and has a positive set of health consequences due to the safe preservation of foods. Nonetheless, the urgency of reducing energy and climate emissions from daily practices provides a rationale for examining how this deeply anchored dependence on refrigeration can be reduced in the Global North and moderated elsewhere.

There are a few new initiatives in the realm of food production and consumption that have the effect of reducing the need for refrigeration. One example is the growth in the promotion of local food production and local markets; another is direct contracts between producers and groups of consumers enabling frequent delivery of food, reducing the need for cold-storage and eliminating the middle step of retail refrigeration. Vegetarianism and veganism are growing around the world, bringing with them a reduction in the consumption of meat and dairy products, thus reducing the need for refrigeration throughout the food chain. Interestingly, these ‘alternative’ food practices springing up in Europe and the USA resemble practices that have been normal in India for centuries. Will refrigeration and refrigerator-based practices lock-in in India or is there a potential for an engagement with these alternative food practices and a moderation of refrigeration-dependence? These are important questions for future research agendas on the nexus between refrigeration, food, energy and climate.

Component DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15180/180903/009