Making Food Modernity: Science and Technology in Late Soviet Nutrition and Food Production
From the mid-1950s, industrial food manufacturing became a key priority of the Soviet economy. Increasing the production of agricultural and manufactured foodstuffs was a matter of improving living standards, which from 1961 the Soviet leadership declared as a crucial step in reaching communism. At the same time, from the 1950s and 60s, the role of science and technology in making food products had significantly increased, promising improvements in both the quantity and quality of nutrition. Specialists played a key role in incorporating traditional foods into the complex nexus of modern science and technologies of production and they developed new qualities of food they called ‘modern’. Food modernity was based on the strong belief in the power of chemical elements, microbiology and modern technologies of production to make healthier, tastier and more sustainable food products. By the 1970s, hygiene also became a crucial element of production, incorporated into the system of labour incentives at Soviet enterprises. These attempts, however, co-existed with food shortages, infrastructural problems and a low production culture that became especially obvious by the 1980s. This paper demonstrates the controversy of Soviet industrial food making: strong beliefs in food science as the trigger for increasing living standards co-existed with backward industrial infrastructures which left ‘modern food’ a matter of experiment rather than the real production. This reveals a pivotal problem in the Soviet economy, where intensive research met insufficient infrastructures for implementation.