Cow Sharing and Alpine Ecosystems: A Comparative Case Study of Sharing Practices and Property Rights

  • Katharina GugerellEmail author
  • Marianne Penker
  • Pia Kieninger
Part of the Science for Sustainable Societies book series (SFSS)


Sharing is a trending issue, and there is a swiftly growing interest in the sharing paradigm, sharing economy and its various opportunities, challenges and impacts. While new sharing practices mediated via Internet platforms are already established in urban contexts, discussions and practices in rural, landscape and ecosystem contexts are still in the very beginning. This chapter analyses a particular type of sharing, i.e. web-mediated cow sharing in the European Alps, which are hotspots of diverse and vulnerable ecosystems. We compared 60 cow-sharing arrangements from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, France and Italy based on the conceptual models of sharing and property rights. They constitute new farmer-consumer relations mediated via digital platforms. Usually in exchange for a payment, farmers share different rights to individual cows with consumers, such as rights to consume their products (i.e. milk, cheese, meat), rights to cow-related experiences (farm and cow visits, exploring Alpine pastures, milking a cow) or other intangibles (i.e. tacit knowledge, learning about Alpine farming and nature). Consequently, the farmers involved are sharing cow-related access and withdrawal rights, but usually not management, exclusion or alienation rights or risks, such as a cow’s illness or death. The analysis illustrates that cow-sharing practices can contribute to the delivery of provisioning services (food with identity and traceable origin) and cultural ecosystem services (recreational and learning experiences, conservation of traditional breeds). We conclude that cow-sharing activities might hold the potential for establishing new forms of direct producer-consumer relations promoting adaptive and conscious production and consumption practices. So far, however, it is too early to draw final conclusions as to whether cow sharing actually contributes to the conservation of Alpine ecosystem services or whether it is rather a commercialization of consumers’ concerns regarding animal welfare and sustainable food production via new web-based direct marketing channels.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  • Katharina Gugerell
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Marianne Penker
    • 2
  • Pia Kieninger
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Mining Engineering and Mineral EconomicsMontanuniversität LeobenLeobenAustria
  2. 2.Institute for Sustainable Economic DevelopmentUniversity of Natural Resources and Life Sciences ViennaViennaAustria
  3. 3.Faculty of Geosciences and EnvironmentUniversity of LausanneLausanneSwitzerland

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