The goal of this paper is twofold: to comparatively analyze the social performance of global and local berry supply chains and to explore the ways in which the social dimension is embedded in the overall performance of food supply chains. To achieve this goal, the social performance of five global and local food supply chains in two countries are analyzed: wild blueberry supply chains in Latvia and cultivated raspberry supply chains in Serbia. The study addresses two research questions: (1) What is the social performance of the local and global supply chains? (2) How can references to context help improve understanding of the social dimension and social performance of food supply chains? To answer these questions, two interlinked thematic sets of indicators (attributes) are used—one describing labor relations and the other describing power relations. These lists are then contextualized by examining the micro-stories of the actors involved in these supply chains. An analysis of the chosen attributes reveals that global chains perform better than local chains. However, a context-sensitive analysis from the perspective of embedded markets and communities suggests that the social performance of food chains is highly context-dependent, relational, and affected by actors’ abilities to negotiate values, norms, and the rules embedded within these chains, both global and local. The results illustrate that the empowerment of the chains’ weakest actors can lead to a redefining of the meanings that performance assessments rely on.
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