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: 10 October 2019

In Fodder this week

A controversial series of review papers advises adults to continue current levels of red and processed meat consumption. The recommendations do not incorporate environmental or ethical concerns. Meanwhile, some areas of China and India are hotspots for antimicrobial resistance in livestock; the Food Ethics Council calls for people to think of themselves as “food citizens”, not just consumers or producers; and an open letter from the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission urges the UK government to consider the environmental implications of any future trade deals.

Featured FCRN publication

This 2008 FCRN report sets out what we know about the food system’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions. Taking a life cycle perspective, it looks at how these emissions arise, both by life cycle stage (from plough to plate to bin) and by food type. It then explores the flip side of the coin: the global impact of a changing climate on how we grow, distribute, produce and consume food. It follows this with a discussion of the strengths and weaknesses of and challenges for the life cycle analysis methodology upon which the report has drawn. 

Read the full report, Cooking up a storm: Food, greenhouse gas emissions and our changing climate, here. See also the Foodsource chapter Environmental impacts of food: an introduction to LCA.

Research library

Image: Waldo93, pollo gallina pollame, Pixabay, Pixabay License

This review paper finds that the number of bacterial strains that are resistant to antimicrobials is increasing in both pigs and chickens. The paper synthesises hundreds of studies from low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) to develop maps of antimicrobial resistance. Hotspots of antimicrobial resistance are found in India and China, with resistance also developing in Brazil and Kenya.

Image: focusonpc, Carne cibo, Pixabay, Pixabay License

A series of review papers on the health effects of consumption of red and processed meat has been published in the Annals of Internal Medicine. Based on the reviews, the Nutritional Recommendations (NutriRECS) Consortium (an independent group including several of the authors of the review papers; members of the panel had no “financial or intellectual” conflicts of interest during the past three years) recommends that adults should continue to eat current levels of both red meat and processed meat.

Image: Marco Verch, Menu in the canteen consisting of mixed salad with carrots, cucumber, rocket, beetroot, feta cheese and egg, with a wholemeal and tea, arranged with cutlery on a beige tray, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

This paper by FCRN member Emma Garnett finds that doubling the availability of vegetarian lunchtime meal options (from one-in-four to two-in-four) in university cafeterias increases vegetarian sales by 40-80%, with little change to overall sales and no detectable rebound effects (such as lower vegetarian meal sales at other meal times such as evening meals). 

The Food Ethics Council has published a report on food citizenship, which it defines as a growing movement of people acting as interdependent participants in our food systems, not just as producers or consumers in linear supply chains. 

This discussion paper from the Food Research Collaboration examines “food hubs”, which it defines as “entities that sit between people who produce food and people who use it”, and asks what they are, what they are for and why we need them.

This report from environmental NGO Friends of the Earth US outlines the health, environmental, ethical and consumer concerns associated with research into genetically engineered livestock. It notes that gene editing can lead to unintended effects, such as unintended modification of portions of DNA, enlarged tongues in rabbits, extra vertebrae in pigs, and novel proteins produced in error (which could result in allergic reactions).

This report from Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) (a London-based investor initiative focused on the environmental, social and ethical issues of factory farming) estimates that the global meat substitute market is worth almost $20 billion and is predicted to grow by 7-9% annually. 

This book examines how people can be exposed to arsenic through drinking water and different types of food in several areas of the world, and sets out some strategies to reduce arsenic accumulation in rice.

This book presents case studies and guidance on extracting high-value compounds from waste and by-products from foods such as dairy, meat, sweet potato, cereals and olive oil.

In an open letter, the RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission urges the Secretaries of State in several UK government departments (including Defra, International Trade, Health, Business, and International Development) to consider the environmental implications of any future trade deals, in particular to avoid “offshoring” impacts to countries with weaker environmental standards.

This interactive feature from the Global Reporting Program, an investigative journalism organisation, uses text, images and video to explore the fishmeal supply chain, including its sources, its uses in aquaculture, overfishing, waste sludge from fishmeal factories and competition between industrial fishmeal producers and small-scale fish processors.


UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) has announced a call for research to fundamentally transform the UK food system, by placing healthy people and a healthy natural environment at its centre. Proposals are invited for interdisciplinary consortia to take a food systems approach, linking healthy and accessible diets with sustainable food production and supply to help drive food system transformation.

Two workshops will be held to communicate more details about the research call and facilitate networking. Attendance at the workshop is not mandatory for applicants to the research calls.

  • Manchester (city centre) Monday 21 October 2019
  • London (central) Friday 25 October 2019

Attendance at these workshops is limited. To find out more and to express your interest in attending, see here. The expression of interest for workshop participation closes 13 October 2019 at 12:00pm.

View further details about the funding call itself here.

UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in partnership with the UK government has announced a £25 million call for research to fundamentally transform the UK food system, by placing healthy people and a healthy natural environment at its centre. 

Proposals are invited for interdisciplinary research consortia to take a systems approach, linking healthy and accessible diets with sustainable food production and supply to help drive food system transformation. This programme aims to address health, environmental and social challenges simultaneously, bringing together researchers, policymakers, business and civil society to develop evidence for multi-pronged and simultaneous action across the food system.

This call is part of a wider £47.5 million interdisciplinary research programme led by the Global Food Security Programme (GFS) and supported by UKRI’s Strategic Priorities Fund (SPF).

Two workshops will be held to communicate more details about the research call and facilitate networking.

To apply or to read further information on the background and scope of the funding call, see here. The deadline for applications is 26 November 2019.

This FutureLearn online course, taught by social scientist Adrian Martin of the University of East Anglia’s Global Environmental Justice Group, will help participants to understand how climate change, biodiversity loss and deforestation affect people and will explore justice in environment management.

The course is free to take part in, is open to everyone and is available in both English and Spanish. It starts on 14 October 2019 and runs for five weeks. Find out more here

FCRN member Susanne Freidberg of Dartmouth College (New Hampshire, United States) is seeking applicants for fully-funded PhD study in the area of sustainability and agro-food supply chains, beginning in September 2020 as part of the Ecology, Evolution, Ecosystems & Society (EEES) graduate programme. 

A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in one of the environmental social sciences (e.g., geography, environmental studies, anthropology, or rural sociology) is preferable. The deadline for applications is 1 December 2019. For more information, see here.

Three PhD fellowships are available at the Environmental Studies Programme at the University of Colorado Boulder, for research into understanding the social and economic dimensions of whether and how new food system technologies – such as those involved in cellular agriculture (‘clean’ meat), precision agriculture, and indoor agriculture – can contribute to food security in the United States.

Applicants should have an undergraduate degree in a relevant natural or social science subject, such as environmental studies, agricultural sciences, biology, business and management, economics, or geography. 

Read more here (PDF link). The deadline is 1 December 2019.

The call for abstracts is open for the LCA Food 2020 conference on topics relating to life cycle assessment of food and this year’s conference theme, “Towards sustainable agri-food systems”. Specifically, abstracts are invited in the areas of:

  • Novel trends and developments
  • Sustainability evaluation models
  • Food logistics and retailing
  • Challenges in modelling & data
  • Methodological challenges
  • Case studies

Read more here. The deadline is 31 December 2019.

The Department of Geography at the University of Sheffield is seeking a research assistant to develop and deliver a pilot public-facing citizen science campaign related to perceptions of sustainable and healthy diets.

Candidates should have either a PhD or a Masters or undergraduate degree with equivalent work experience, have experience of citizen science and or public science education, and have good communication, organisational and analytical skills.

Read more here. The deadline for applications is 30 October 2019.

The call for papers is open for the 2nd International Conference on Sustainable Production and Consumption, which will take place on 24-25 June 2020 in Edinburgh, UK. The conference, hosted by the IChemE (Institution of Chemical Engineers), aims to explore interactions between technology, the environment, economy, society and policy.

Conference topics include:

  • Circular economy
  • Ecosystem services
  • The energy, food, water and waste nexus
  • Life cycle sustainability assessment and management
  • Sustainable lifestyles and consumer engagement
  • Sustainable technologies, products and services
  • Sustainability indicators, multi-criteria decision analysis and systems optimisation
  • Sustainable development policy.

Papers should include some elements of life cycle thinking and should clearly demonstrate that they are addressing topics related to sustainable production and consumption.

Read more here. The deadline for submitting an abstract is Friday 10 January 2020. 


At this talk on 24 October 2019, Michael Obersteiner (director of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute) will present insights on the transitions necessary to achieve targets for development and human health while protecting ecosystems.

Read more here. The talk is part of the Oxford Martin School’s series Food futures: how can we safeguard the planet’s health, and our own?

This symposium on 29 October 2019, hosted by UK charity Social Farms & Gardens, will showcase the use of the latest technology in green spaces.

Session topics include:

  • Technology and urban agriculture – from urban agriculture and urban anaerobic digestion to aquaponics.
  • Parks & green spaces – how apps and social media can improve access and understanding.
  • How technology can benefit community groups – the impact on community gardens, parks and green spaces.

Read more here.

This conference, on 11 and 12 November 2019, will explore diverse issues across sustainable food and farming, bringing together farmers, food producers, environmentalists and people involved in public health, food education, sovereignty and justice. It aims to map out how the Welsh food system can become more sustainable.

Read more here