This study investigates the relationship between consumer motivation, understanding and use of sustainability labels on food products (both environmental and ethical labels), which are increasingly appearing on food products. Data was collected by means of an online survey implemented in the UK, France, Germany, Spain, Sweden, and Poland, with a total sample size of 4408 respondents. Respondents expressed medium high to high levels of concern with sustainability issues at the general level, but lower levels of concern in the context of concrete food product choices. Understanding of the concept of sustainability was limited, but understanding of four selected labels (Fair Trade, Rainforest Alliance, Carbon Footprint, and Animal Welfare) was better, as some of them seem to be self-explanatory. The results indicated a low level of use, no matter whether use was measured as self-reported use of different types of information available on food labels or as use inferred from the results of a choice-based conjoint analysis. Hierarchical regression indicated that use is related to both motivation and understanding, and that both motivation, understanding and use are affected by demographic characteristics, human values as measured by the Schwartz value domains, and country differences. The results imply that sustainability labels currently do not play a major role in consumers’ food choices, and future use of these labels will depend on the extent to which consumers’ general concern about sustainability can be turned into actual behaviour.
► Total food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the US was estimated at $165.6 billion in 2008. ► Per capita loss at the consumer level was $390/year or $1.07/day. ► The value of food loss was highest for meat, poultry and fish; vegetables; and dairy. ► Per household (2.4 persons) loss at the consumer level was $936/year or $2.56/day. There are few peer-reviewed or major published studies that estimate the total amount of food loss in developed countries and even fewer attempt to estimate the monetary value. We compiled estimates of the amount and value of food loss for more than 200 individual foods in the United States using the US Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service’s Loss-Adjusted Food Availability data and then aggregated these values to estimate the total value of food loss and the value by food group. The results indicate that in 2008, the estimated total value of food loss at the retail and consumer levels in the United States as purchased at retail prices was $165.6 billion. The top three food groups in terms of the value of food loss at these levels are: meat, poultry, and fish (41%); vegetables (17%); and dairy products (14%). Looking more closely at the estimates for the consumer level, this level of loss translates into almost 124 kg (273 lb) of food lost from human consumption, per capita, in 2008 at an estimated retail price of $390/capita/year. Food loss represents a significant share of household food expenditures: our estimates suggest that the annual value of food loss is almost 10% of the average amount spent on food per consumer in 2008 and over 1% of the average disposable income. This consumer level loss translates into over .3 kg (0.7 lb) of food per capita per day valued at $1.07/day. Our estimates of the total value of food loss in the United States and loss estimates by food group are useful in that they can generate awareness of the issue among the food industry members, governments, and consumers. Potential large-scale approaches and economic incentives to mitigate food loss in developed countries are also discussed.
► The food system contributes substantially to global greenhouse gas emissions. ► Technological mitigation approaches, while necessary, may not be sufficient. ► Dietary shift away from meat and dairy products is also needed. ► This could yield health benefits for developed world consumers. ► But it would pose major nutritional challenges for developing countries. ► A nutrition oriented agriculture that sits within environmental limits is needed. This paper reviews estimates of food related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions at the global, regional and national levels, highlighting both GHG-intensive stages in the food chain, and GHG-intensive food types. It examines approaches that have been proposed for mitigating emissions at each stage in the chain and looks at how these sit within wider discussions of sustainability. It finds that efficiency-focused technological measures, while important, may not only be insufficient in reducing GHGs to the level required but may also give rise to other environmental and ethical concerns. It gives evidence showing that in addition to technological mitigation it will also be necessary to shift patterns of consumption, and in particular away from diets rich in GHG-intensive meat and dairy foods. This will be necessary not just in the developed but also, in the longer term, in the developing world. This move, while potentially beneficial for food secure, wealthier populations, raises potentially serious nutritional questions for the world’s poorest. A priority for decision makers is to develop policies that explicitly seek to integrate agricultural, environmental and nutritional objectives.
Food policy should serve humanity by advancing the humane goals of eradicating extreme poverty and hunger. However, these goals have recently been challenged by emerging forces including climate change, water scarcity, the energy crisis as well as the credit crisis. This paper analyses the overall role of these forces and population growth in redefining global food security. Specifically, global water supply and demand as well as the linkages between water supply and food security are examined. The analysis reveals that the water for food security situation is intricate and might get daunting if no action is taken. Investments are needed today for enhancing future food security; this requires action on several fronts, including tackling climate change, preserving land and conserving water, reducing the energy footprint in food systems, developing and adopting climate resilient varieties, modernising irrigation infrastructure, shoring up domestic food supplies, reforming international food trade, and responding to other global challenges.
Evidence assembled in this special issue of shows that rising rural population densities in parts of Africa are profoundly affecting farming systems and the region’s economies in ways that are underappreciated in current discourse on African development issues. This study synthesizes how people, markets and governments are responding to rising land pressures in Africa, drawing on key findings from the various contributions in this special issue. The papers herein revisit the issue of Boserupian agricultural intensification as an important response to land constraints, but they also go further than Boserup and her followers to explore broader responses to land constraints, including non-farm diversification, migration, and reduced fertility rates. Agricultural and rural development strategies in the region will need to more fully anticipate the implications of Africa’s rapidly changing land and demographic situation, and the immense challenges that mounting land pressures pose in the context of current evidence of unsustainable agricultural intensification, a rapidly rising labor force associated with the region’s current demographic conditions, and limited nonfarm job creation. These challenges are manageable but will require explicit policy actions to address the unique development challenges in densely populated rural areas.
Farm production diversity has the potential to influence the diversity of household diets, an important nutrition outcome associated with the nutrient adequacy of diets and the nutritional status of individuals. Yet, little empirical research has assessed the relationship between farm diversity and diet diversity or the plausible causal mechanisms that may operate between these two constructs. This research examines cross-sectional data from the Malawi Third Integrated Household Survey (IHS3), a nationally representative sample of farming households in Malawi, implemented from March 2010–March 2011 as part of the World Bank Living Standards Measurement Study – Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA). These data were used to determine the relationship between farm production diversity and household dietary diversity, and to identify determinants of this relationship. Two indicators of dietary diversity, a modified Household Dietary Diversity Score (HDDS), and the Food Consumption Score (FCS), were calculated along with three indicators of farm production diversity including the Simpson’s Index, a metric accounting for both species richness and evenness. In multiple regression analyses, adjusting standard errors for the complex survey design of the IHS3 and controlling for the effects of several covariates on household dietary diversity, farm production diversity was consistently positively associated with dietary diversity ( < 0.0001). The association of increased farm diversity as measured by a combined crop and livestock measure on dietary diversity was significantly greater in woman-headed households compared to those headed by men (HDDS: = 0.008; FCS: = 0.076). The positive association of farm diversity with dietary diversity was also greater in wealthier households ( < 0.05). Consumption of legumes, vegetables and fruits was especially strongly associated with greater farm diversity. More diverse production systems may contribute to more diverse household diets. However, this relationship is complex; it may be influenced by gender, wealth, control of household decisions, the relative market-orientation of a household’s agricultural production, and the specific nature of farm diversity.
► 104 Carbon footprints and 43 land footprints of protein sources are examined. ► Very large differences in impact between protein sources were found. ► In the life cycles, in general, the farm phase is the most important. ► Vegetal sources, poultry products and certain seafood have low carbon footprints. ► Ruminant meat and some types of seafood have high carbon footprints. Animal husbandry, aquaculture and fishery have major impacts on the environment. In order to identify the range of impacts and the most important factors thereof, as well as to identify what are the main causes of the differences between products, we analysed 52 life cycle assessment studies (LCAs) of animal and vegetal sources of protein. Our analysis was focused only on land requirement and carbon footprints. In a general conclusion it can be said that the carbon footprint of the most climate-friendly protein sources is up to 100 times smaller than those of the most climate-unfriendly. The differences between footprints of the various products were found mainly to be due to differences in production systems. The outcomes for pork and poultry show much more homogeneity than for beef and seafood. This is largely because both beef and seafood production show a wide variety of production systems. Land use (occupation), comprising both arable land and grasslands, also varies strongly, ranging from negligible for seafood to up to 2100 m y kg of protein from extensive cattle farming. From farm to fork the feed production and animal husbandry are by far the most important contributors to the environmental impacts.
The objective of this study was to explore the synergies between nutritionally healthy and ecologically sustainable diets. The aim was to explore the possibilities for future integrated dietary guidelines that support consumers to make informed dietary choices based on both ecological and nutritional values. We developed a score system for health and sustainability. Subsequently, we tested six different diets: current average Dutch, official ’recommended’ Dutch, semi-vegetarian, vegetarian, vegan and Mediterranean. For the sustainability rating, we used the Life Cycle Assessment, measuring the impacts on greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and land use (LU). For the health rating, we used ten nutritional indicators. By comparing the overall scores we found that the consumption of meat, dairy products, extras, such as snacks, sweets, pastries, and beverages, in that order, are largely responsible for low sustainability scores. Simultaneously, these food groups contribute to low health scores. We developed a matrix that illustrates that the health and sustainability scores of all six diets go largely hand in hand. provides a visualisation of the position of the six diets in the full health and sustainability spectrum. This matrix with scores can be considered a first step in the development of a tool to measure both sustainability and health issues of specific food patterns. In selecting the diets, we examined two directions: health focus diets and the animal protein reduction diets. The Mediterranean diet is generally the health focus option with a high sustainability score. We conclude that guidelines oriented in between the two directions (i.e., semi- and pesco-vegetarian) are the option with the optimal synergy between health and sustainability.
A large amount of food is lost along the entire food supply chain, causing serious environmental, economic and social impacts and most food is wasted during the final consumption phase especially in industrialized countries. Starting from the analysis of the main regulations and initiatives at various administrative levels and by introducing a two-level framework for modelling complex household food waste behaviour, this paper aims at investigating the behaviour of EU-27 citizens towards food waste by referring to the 2013 Flash Eurobarometer survey (n. 388). The multilevel statistical perspective enabled us to jointly consider factors at both individual and contextual levels as potential variables associated with food waste. Firstly, by analysing territorial variability it was possible to identify groups of countries characterized by similar behaviour patterns and therefore target them according to the need and exigency of public policy interventions. Secondly, at individual level it was observed that people living in towns and large cities tend to produce more waste thus emphasizing the need of diversifying policy interventions at local level according to the extent of urbanization. Moreover, education level, sorting practices, attitudes and concern regarding food waste proved to be associated with individuals’ behaviour towards food waste. Thirdly, public–private partnerships as well as targeting community-based interventions to address food waste should be encouraged.
► Nitrogen fertiliser inputs to agriculture are essential for global production of sufficient food. ► Methane is the most efficient hydrogen feedstock and energy source for nitrogen fixation, and reserves should be protected in the absence of alternative hydrogen sources. ► Current known and potential reserves of phosphate rock are quantified. ► The requisite aggregate annual intake of phosphorus in food by the global population is estimated. ► It is essential that phosphorus is recycled to avoid exhaustion of reserves of this unsubstitutable nutrient. Without the input of fertiliser nitrogen it is estimated that only about half of the current global population can be supplied with sufficient food energy and protein. The anticipated increase in the population to 2050 will increase the dependency on fertiliser inputs. The paper examines the different potential sources of energy and hydrogen required for this essential fixation of atmospheric nitrogen into plant-available nitrogenous fertiliser and concludes that methane from natural gas is clearly the most suitable source. In the absence of a cost-effective alternative source of hydrogen it is recommended that an on-going requirement for methane is acknowledged and that consideration be given to strategic reserves for the production of food. Phosphorus is also an essential and unsubstitutable nutrient for plants and animals, but while the global reserves of atmospheric nitrogen are effectively unlimited, the reserves of phosphate rock are finite. Recent estimates of the reserve suggest that at the current rate of use this resource will become exhausted within some hundreds of years. The annual increment of phosphorus contained in the human population is estimated to be in the order of 1 Mt/yr, which is a small proportion of the quantity mined. There is a clear requirement to ensure that phosphorus is recycled to a large extent, so that the rate of exhaustion of the reserves of phosphate rock is significantly reduced. Legislation relating to the management of phosphorus appears entirely associated with its potential to upset natural ecosystems, with apparently no regulations yet requiring the efficient use and reuse of a scarce resource.
In light of growing concerns over the implications of many conventional agricultural practices, and especially the deep tilling of soils, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), among others, has begun to promote a package of soil conserving practices under the banner of ‘conservation agriculture’. While the title might be novel, its associated practices have long been employed by farmers, and studied by social scientists seeking to understand the reasons for their adoption and non-adoption. This paper reviews and synthesizes this past research in order to identify those independent variables that regularly explain adoption, and thereby facilitate policy prescriptions to augment adoption around the world. While a disaggregated analysis of a subset of commonly used variables reveals some underlying patterns of influence, once various contextual factors (e.g. study locale or method) are controlled, the primary finding of the synthesis is that there are few if any universal variables that regularly explain the adoption of conservation agriculture across past analyses. Given the limited prospect of identifying such variables through further research, we conclude that efforts to promote conservation agriculture will have to be tailored to reflect the particular conditions of individual locales.
► We review soil issues relevant to global food security and ecosystem functioning. ► We suggest actions for each issue including policies, communication or research. ► Organic matter content is essential for improving many soil physical properties. ► Policies to make fertilizers affordable in developing countries are essential. ► Practices to cut greenhouse gas emissions from intensified agriculture are needed. Requirements for research, practices and policies affecting soil management in relation to global food security are reviewed. Managing soil organic carbon (C) is central because soil organic matter influences numerous soil properties relevant to ecosystem functioning and crop growth. Even small changes in total C content can have disproportionately large impacts on key soil physical properties. Practices to encourage maintenance of soil C are important for ensuring sustainability of all soil functions. Soil is a major store of C within the biosphere – increases or decreases in this large stock can either mitigate or worsen climate change. Deforestation, conversion of grasslands to arable cropping and drainage of wetlands all cause emission of C; policies and international action to minimise these changes are urgently required. Sequestration of C in soil can contribute to climate change mitigation but the real impact of different options is often misunderstood. Some changes in management that are beneficial for soil C, increase emissions of nitrous oxide (a powerful greenhouse gas) thus cancelling the benefit. Research on soil physical processes and their interactions with roots can lead to improved and novel practices to improve crop access to water and nutrients. Increased understanding of root function has implications for selection and breeding of crops to maximise capture of water and nutrients. Roots are also a means of delivering natural plant-produced chemicals into soil with potentially beneficial impacts. These include biocontrol of soil-borne pests and diseases and inhibition of the nitrification process in soil (conversion of ammonium to nitrate) with possible benefits for improved nitrogen use efficiency and decreased nitrous oxide emission. The application of molecular methods to studies of soil organisms, and their interactions with roots, is providing new understanding of soil ecology and the basis for novel practical applications. Policy makers and those concerned with development of management approaches need to keep a watching brief on emerging possibilities from this fast-moving area of science. Nutrient management is a key challenge for global food production: there is an urgent need to increase nutrient availability to crops grown by smallholder farmers in developing countries. Many changes in practices including inter-cropping, inclusion of nitrogen-fixing crops, agroforestry and improved recycling have been clearly demonstrated to be beneficial: facilitating policies and practical strategies are needed to make these widely available, taking account of local economic and social conditions. In the longer term fertilizers will be essential for food security: policies and actions are needed to make these available and affordable to small farmers. In developed regions, and those developing rapidly such as China, strategies and policies to manage more precisely the necessarily large flows of nutrients in ways that minimise environmental damage are essential. A specific issue is to minimise emissions of nitrous oxide whilst ensuring sufficient nitrogen is available for adequate food production. Application of known strategies (through either regulation or education), technological developments, and continued research to improve understanding of basic processes will all play a part. Decreasing soil erosion is essential, both to maintain the soil resource and to minimise downstream damage such as sedimentation of rivers with adverse impacts on fisheries. Practical strategies are well known but often have financial implications for farmers. Examples of systems for paying one group of land users for ecosystem services affecting others exist in several parts of the world and serve as a model.
Global food demand is driven by population and economic growth, and urbanization. One important instrument to meet this increasing demand and to decrease the pressure on food production is to minimize food losses and food waste. Food waste and loss is a major societal, economic, nutritional and environmental challenge. Using the case of Denmark, this paper analyses causes of food waste, and discusses how different stakeholders address the prevention and reuse of the €1.18 billion of annual edible food waste. Currently, the majority of food waste is still incinerated with energy recovery. However, improvements in technology have made it more efficient to utilize food waste for biogas and compost, which improves nutrient cycling through the food system. Major efforts to address food waste in Denmark have mainly been promoted through civil society groups with governmental support, as well as by industry. In order to better understand food waste and loss more research must be conducted on the total amount of food waste at every level of the food supply chain. Solutions can be found through improved communication, more efficient food packaging, and better in interpretation of food labels by consumers. Likewise, systems thinking may support an integrated agricultural and food system where food utilization is optimized and loss and waste of resources is reduced. In conclusion, sustainable solutions to the reduction of food waste in Denmark must include multi-stakeholders collaboration, especially public–private partnerships at the global level.
► An integrated analytical framework addresses competition for land arising from the ‘energy-food-environment’ trilemma. ► Land-use change risks from increasing demand for food are at least as great as those from biofuels. ► Biofuels and biomaterials are destined to be globally significant technologies for many decades. ► Strategic political direction of innovation is necessary to achieve sustainable intensification of agriculture. The paper addresses the new competition for land arising from growing and changing demand for food when combined with increasing global demand for transport energy, under conditions of declining petro-chemical resources and the urgent need to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The paper starts from the premise of a ‘food, energy and environment trilemma’ ( ), where all demands to expand the area of cultivated land present high risks of increasing the carbon footprint of agriculture. Having reviewed the main drivers of demand for food and for liquid transport fuels, the paper weighs the controversies surrounding biofuels arising from food-price spikes, the demand for land, and consequent direct and indirect land-use change. It suggests that we need a more complex, and geographically differentiated, analysis of the interactions between direct and indirect land-use change. The paper then reviews evidence of land availability, and suggests that in addition to technical availability in terms of soil, water, and climate, political, social, and technological factors have significantly shaped the competition for land in different global regions, particularly the three major biofuel producing ones of the USA, Brazil and Europe. This point is further developed by reviewing the different innovation pathways for biofuels in these three regions. The main conclusion of this review is firstly that any analysis requires an integrated approach to the food-energy-environment trilemma, and secondly that strategic political direction of innovation and sustainability regulation are required to bring about major shifts in agriculture leading to sustainable intensification of cultivation ( ), rather than the continued expansion of cultivated area. The consequent perspective is one of considerable global variety in technologies, agricultural productive systems, and use of natural resources. This contrasts sharply with the world of a dominant global and integrated technology platform based on petro-chemicals to which we have become accustomed.
Surplus food management plays a key role in food waste reduction. This paper addresses the multifaceted concept of food supply chain sustainability by presenting a model of surplus food generation and management (called ASRW, Availability-Surplus-Recoverability-Waste), which encompasses the integrated food supply chain (i.e. business, environmental and social players). The model was developed using a bottom-up approach, by conducting 30 exploratory case studies and iterating theory development and data analysis. Three confirmatory case studies, from different food supply chain stages, are also presented to demonstrate how the model can be used to identify food waste reduction strategies.
Urban agriculture may have a role to play in addressing urban food insecurity problems, which are bound to become increasingly important with the secular trend towards the urbanization of poverty and of population in developing regions. Our understanding of the importance, nature and food security implications of urban agriculture is however plagued by a lack of good quality, reliable data. While studies based on survey data do exist for several major cities, much of the evidence is still qualitative if not anecdotal. Using a recently created dataset bringing together comparable, nationally representative household survey data for 15 developing or transition countries, this paper analyzes in a comparative international perspective the importance of urban agriculture for the urban poor and food insecure. Some clear hints do come from our analysis. On the one hand, the potential for urban agriculture to play a substantial role in urban poverty and food insecurity reduction should not be overemphasised, as its share in income and overall agricultural production is often quite limited. On the other hand, though, its role should also not be too easily dismissed, particularly in much of Africa and in all those countries in which agriculture provides a substantial share of income for the urban poor, and for those groups of households to which it constitutes an important source of livelihoods. We also find fairly consistent evidence of a positive statistical association between engagement in urban agriculture and dietary adequacy indicators.
There are various sustainability certifications and claims for food products that focus on environmental or ethical benefits. These claims empower consumers to make informed purchasing decisions that take environmental and ethical considerations into account. This paper compares consumers’ preferences for four types of sustainability claims related to organic meat, free range, animal welfare and carbon footprint. Using a choice experiment on a chicken breast product, our results show that nine in every ten Belgian consumers favor free range claims, which are also valued the most highly, attracting premiums ranging from 43% to 93%. Our study also shows that a vast majority of consumers (87%) would welcome the introduction of an EU level animal welfare label. The carbon footprint labels and the organic labels are less appealing to consumers, who have lower willingness to pay for these labels. Belgian consumers prefer the national Belgian organic food logo, certified by a private organization, to the newly-introduced EU organic food logo.
► We conducted a nation-wide choice experiment to assess consumer preference for food safety attributes in urban China. ► We model heterogeneity in consumer preferences using a random parameters logit and latent class model. ► We find that consumers value direct government involvement in the food safety system more over other options. Food safety issues often arise from asymmetric information between consumers and suppliers with regards to product-specific attributes. Severe food safety scandals were observed recently in China. These events not only caused direct economic and life losses, but also created distrust in the Chinese food system domestically, as well as internationally. While much attention has focused on the problems plaguing the Chinese government’s food inspection system, little research has been dedicated to analyzing Chinese consumers’ concerns surrounding food safety. In this paper, we measure consumer preferences for select food safety attributes in pork and take food safety risk perceptions into account. Several choice experiment models, including latent class and random parameters logit, are constructed to capture heterogeneity in consumer preferences. Our results suggest that Chinese consumers have the highest willingness-to-pay for a government certification program, followed by third-party certification, a traceability system, and a product-specific information label. The results of this study call for the direct involvement of the Chinese government in the food safety system. A stricter monitoring system will not only improve consumer well-being in the short-run, but also restore consumers’ trust leading to a social welfare increase in the long run.
The entire food value chain and diet of low and middle income countries (LMICs) are rapidly shifting. Many of the issues addressed by the nutrition community ignore some of the major underlying shifts in purchases of consumer packaged foods and beverages. At the same time, the drivers of the food system at the farm level might be changing. There is a need for the agriculture and nutrition communities to understand these changes and focus on some of their implications for health. This rapid growth of the retail sector will change the diets of the food insecure as much as that of the food secure across rural and urban LMIC’s. This short commentary contents that current research, programs and policies are ignoring these rapid dynamic shifts.
Conventional wisdom holds that Sub-Saharan African farmers use few modern inputs despite the fact that most poverty-reducing agricultural growth in the region is expected to come largely from expanded use of inputs that embody improved technologies, particularly improved seed, fertilizers and other agro-chemicals, machinery, and irrigation. Yet following several years of high food prices, concerted policy efforts to intensify fertilizer and hybrid seed use, and increased public and private investment in agriculture, how low is modern input use in Africa really? This article revisits Africa’s agricultural input landscape, exploiting the unique, recently collected, nationally representative, agriculturally intensive, and cross-country comparable Living Standard Measurement Study-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA) covering six countries in the region (Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Uganda). Using data from over 22,000 households and 62,000 agricultural plots, we offer ten potentially surprising facts about modern input use in Africa today.