Knowledge for better food systems

Fodder: The FCRN food sustainability newsletter

The FCRN’s weekly newsletter on food sustainability, Fodder, rounds up the latest journal papers, reports, books, jobs, events and more. Sign up to receive it here.

Network updates

From the FCRN: 19 June 2019

New Building Block: Agricultural methane and its role as a greenhouse gas

Last week we published a new Building Block on our Foodsource website. Written by John Lynch of the Department of Physics at the University of Oxford, it explains the differences in how methane and carbon dioxide affect the climate.

Read the new Building Block here:

Agricultural methane and its role as a greenhouse gas

To see our existing Building Blocks, click here. Recent topics include What is environmental efficiency? And is it sustainable? and What is food loss and food waste?

In Fodder this week

Emissions of methane from ammonia fertiliser plants in the United States could be one hundred times higher than previously reported - farmland bird abundance in Finland is positively associated with the nearby presence of organic animal farms - a new game for food system stakeholders aims to develop and refine policy ideas - and Greenpeace finds that none of the companies it assessed have been able to demonstrate significant action on eliminating deforestation from their supply chains.

Featured FCRN publication

The purpose of this briefing paper from 2010 is to explore the different ways in which one might view the contributions that livestock in intensive and extensive systems make to greenhouse gas emissions. Why do people draw different conclusions about intensive versus extensive systems? How far do these conclusions reflect differing approaches to quantifying emissions, to considering land use, and to accepting future demand for animal source foods?

Read the paper here. See also the Foodsource chapter Focus: the difficult livestock issue.

For a longer discussion of livestock issues, see the 2017 FCRN report Grazed and confused? and the 2007 FCRN working paper Animal feed, livestock and greenhouse gas emissions: What are the issues?

Research library

Image: Max Pixel, Pressure Industrial Pipe, Creative Commons CC0

Methane emissions from ammonia fertiliser manufacturing plants (which use natural gas as a feedstock and energy source) in the United States are around one hundred times higher than currently reported levels, according to this study. Researchers used a Google Street View car equipped with methane analysers to take measurements downwind of six ammonia fertiliser plants (there are only 23 such plants in the US).

Image: Ron Knight, Corn Crake (Crex crex), Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

According to this study of farmland birds in Finland, bird abundance is positively correlated with the nearby presence of organic animal farms, as well as the percentage of nearby field cover and the presence of natural grasslands.

This report from environmental NGO Greenpeace International documents the efforts of over 50 companies to demonstrate their progress towards ending deforestation by disclosing their cattle, cocoa, dairy, palm oil, pulp and paper and soya suppliers. No company was able to demonstrate significant action on eliminating deforestation, while those companies that do publish their suppliers all source from producers involved in deforestation.

This investor briefing from UK responsible investment charity ShareAction introduces the topic of childhood obesity and sets out the opportunities and risks it poses to investment portfolios.

This report from US management consultancy AT Kearney identifies trends in the cultured meat and meat replacement sectors. It estimates that, by 2040, cultured meat and novel vegan meat replacements will together account for a greater market share than conventional meat.

This report from the European Academies Science Advisory Board outlines the connections between climate change and human health in Europe, recommends integrating health concerns into climate mitigation strategies, and suggests areas of priority for further research.

This report from the global research network Agriculture, Nutrition & Health (ANH) Academy introduces a game, ‘Diet Dimensions’, which is designed to engage researchers, policymakers and other stakeholders in the issues and policies surrounding healthy, sustainable food systems.

This book synthesises the academic literature on sustainable food supply chains and offers quantitative models on topics such as shelf life, vehicle routing and waste management.

This book by Ruth Kassinger uses case studies to explore how algae could be used to produce food, fuel and packaging materials.

Image: Graham Robson, Slurry lagoon north of Bays Leap Farm, Geograph, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic

A joint investigation by the Guardian newspaper, Channel 4 News and the UK’s non-profit Bureau of Investigative Journalism has found that halving ammonia emissions from farms in the UK could save thousands of lives each year. However, a loophole in regulations means that ammonia emissions from beef and dairy farms do not have to be monitored.


The UK’s Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) is hiring a Community Manager to deliver membership services to the SRA’s membership base of food service providers and suppliers, improve the SRA’s online community, and developing offline events.

Candidates should have experience in a customer-facing role, have a knack for understanding people, have an interest in sustainability issues in the hospitality sector, and have experience working as part of a busy team.

Read more here. The closing date is 30 June 2019.

Food waste company Too Good To Go is hiring a Global Public Affairs Manager to support the development of its work in Belgium and to support its political strategy for the European Union.

Candidates should be trilingual in Dutch, French and English, be comfortable negotiating with high-profile partners, be passionate about sustainability, and have strong project management skills.

For more details, see here. No deadline is specified. For more vacancies from Too Good To Go, see here.

Eight PhD positions are available through the European Union’s Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions programme, at various institutions. The programme aims to provide sound scientifically based knowledge for management options and decisions on new and emerging food safety threats due to climate change. The projects are listed below.

  1. University College Dublin: Development of a Feed Chain Risk Assessment (FCRA) to assess the increased risk from mycotoxins in animal feed as a result of climate change and potential transfer to dairy produce for human consumption
  2. University of Malta: Modelling the dynamics of microbial change: dairy food production processes and process/waste water of (dairy) food industries
  3. KU Leuven: Modelling the dynamics of microbial change: dairy food products
  4. Nantes-Atlantic National College of Veterinary Medicine, Food Science and Engineering: Develop a Quantitative Microbial Exposure Assessment (QMEA) model to assess the impact of key process steps on both risk for human health and commercial sterility failure rate
  5. Aristotle University of Thessaloniki: Modelling the dynamics of microbial change: non-refrigerated food products
  6. University of Nottingham: Simulation and evaluation of energy use in the dairy industry: effect of a climate change scenario on the supply chain
  7. University of Santiago de Compostela: Improving the environmental sustainability of the dairy products value chains by the combined use of LCA and RA methodologies
  8. University College Dublin: Development of a DSS based upon risk assessment and predictive tools

Read more here. The deadline is 28 June 2019.

The Swedish International Agriculture Network Initiative (SIANI) is offering funding for Expert Groups, which are cross-sector working groups established around SIANI’s vision to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” (Sustainable Development Goal 2).

SIANI’s Expert Groups are manageable interdisciplinary groups whose purpose is to support dialogues that capture, develop, consolidate and communicate knowledge on emerging issues contributing to our vision.

For more information, see here. The deadline is 16 August 2019.


This symposium on 21 June 2019, hosted by the Belgian Association of Meat Science and Technology and the International Dairy Federation, will report on the latest science to assess the nutritional and environmental implications of ruminant livestock.

Speakers will include Frank Mitloehner of UC Davis, Michelle Cain of the University of Oxford, Martin Scholten of Wageningen University and Research, and Anne Mottet of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations.

Topics of discussion will include livestock and its environmental impact, methane reduction strategies for cattle, why methane should be treated differently compared to other greenhouse gases, the sustainability of meat and dairy and whether or not livestock is essential for food and resource security and climate change reduction.

Read more here. See also the FCRN report Grazed and Confused? and the Foodsource Building Block Agricultural methane and its role as a greenhouse gas.

This webinar on 25 June 2019, hosted by Climatelinks (a global knowledge portal for staff of the United States Agency for International Development), will explore the measurement, reporting and verifying of climate change mitigation through agroforestry.

For more information, see here.

This summer school, hosted by the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology of the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, will run from 8 to 12 July 2019. It will offer an overview of the challenges posed to governance by complex sustainability problems and an illustration of a novel approach (Quantitative Story-Telling) capable of handling these challenges.

Sign up here.

This event on 16 July 2019 will explore how food and drink businesses can use alternative  business models to have greater social impact. The event is hosted by Make Innovation Happen (part of Scottish Enterprise) and will feature speakers from consultancy UXL Ltd and charity Social Investment Scotland.

For more details, see here.

The 2019 annual conference of the UK research programme N8 Agrifood will be held on 22 and 23 October 2019 with the theme ‘Celebrating N8 AgriFood: Creating Solutions for a Sustainable Food System’.

The two day event aims to drive debate on regional, national and international food systems between key players in the agri-food community. Topical and important issues set to be covered include the global impact of the UK food system, health and nutrition, food justice, supply chains and sustainable agriculture.

For more details, see here. Early bird registration is open until 12 July 2019.