From the beginning of Juan Domingo Perón’s administration, food consumption was both a significant object of state policy and a central component of official propaganda. This essay resists the analytical separation between politics and imaginaries in order to expand our understanding of Peronism in new directions. First, it shows the economic, political, and iconographic centrality of food for state planning, commercial culture, public health, and definitions of social, national, and physical well-being. Second, the essay reinterprets nationalism and social entitlement—concepts that researchers have identified as key in Peronist ideology—through a new focus on food. An increase in per capita beef consumption, beyond serving as a symbol of popular well-being, undermined the images of Argentina as an export economy subservient to foreign capitalism. By favoring internal consumers over external markets, Peronist beef politics created an empowering ideology of economic sovereignty. This ideology reinforced the commitment of the state to benefit the local population in the distribution of national wealth. Between 1946 and 1949, the government popularized the rise in beef intake as the new entitlement of the working classes to what had previously been a “luxury food.” Finally, the analysis demonstrates that Peronism collected and instrumentally continued or redefined key arguments circulating in Argentine popular culture and medical and leftist discourses, including the relation of beef consumption to nationalism, luxury, rights, and health; the intervention of the state in nutritional issues; the dietary education of the masses; and the connection between nationalism, tradition, and culinary culture.

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