Grocery auctions, as an outgrowth of the inefficiencies of the industrialized food system, repurpose unwanted, damaged, and overstock food that has been removed from the primary market. Based on ethnographic research conducted at grocery auctions in Maryland and Mississippi, this article examines how the spoils and waste of the capitalist industrialized food system are transformed into valued food. During the competitive play of bidding, the divergent needs and motivations of distributers and consumers intersect and collectively determine the value of food: distribution, rather than production, emerges as a central force in the creation of value. Focusing on the generative potential of value, I argue that the social dimensions of distribution enacted through bidding render the value-making process itself visible and expose the products of the industrialized food system as contested sites of engagement rather than hegemonic markers of value.

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