Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Dr. Gregory J. Howard

Second Advisor

Dr. Zoann Snyder

Third Advisor

Dr. Barry Goetz


class, identity, social movements, food movement, backyard chickens

Access Setting

Masters Thesis-Open Access


This paper is a case study of a proposed backyard chicken ordinance for Grand Rapids, Michigan. The study is viewed in light of social movement theory, specifically new social movement theory, to determine if events surrounding and leading up to the debate can be labeled as a social movement. A key finding is a culture of consumption as a common thread throughout the debate. The poultry industry pushed for continued consumption of its products with an agenda of fear regarding disease and improper handling. Proponents countered with a discussion on an ethic of care for the birds. Ultimately, this rejection of the culture of consumption by the proponents of the ordinance becomes the focus of the ruling class and their actions regarding the rejection of that consumption. In the end, the backyard chicken debate in Grand Rapids cannot be categorized as a social movement. At best, the debate, combined with other discussions on local food, may be able to contribute to an overall cultural change toward local foods from which future movements may be able to draw to create a dialogue over other food issues. Suggested future research is to determine the role of fair food policies in conjunction with race and class issues in Grand Rapids, in-depth research regarding the lack of food policy in Grand Rapids in general, and the role of fear regarding production of food in today’s society.