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: 25 March 2020

Working viral: sustainability by necessity - a new forum

As a result of the spread of the COVID-19 virus, many of us are now forced to work from home. While the circumstances are tragic, the current situation nevertheless provides an opportunity to test and evolve the new ways of collaborating virtually that will be needed in a 1.5°C world.

We have set up an open forum for us all to share our ideas and experiences of how we've tried to adapt to the new circumstances and to working remotely, and for exchanging views on which forms of online collaborative activities work and which don't.

Taking part in the forum is very simple - you only need a Google account. We’d be delighted to hear your thoughts, whether detailed or very informal.

In Fodder this week

FCRN member Hayo van der Werf calls for better life cycle assessment of organic and agroecological farming; Nicole Tichenor Blackstone compares the EAT-Lancet diet to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans; Lukas Paul Fesenfeld explores how “packaging” several food policies together can increase acceptance among voters.

Featured FCRN publication

This 2007 discussion paper from the FCRN looks at the alcohol consumed in the UK. It considers whether we can quantify in ‘good enough’ terms the contribution that our alcohol consumption makes to the UK’s total greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The focus is on the main three categories of alcoholic drink: beer, wine and spirits. Each of these are explored in turn to see what we know about their life cycle impacts and whether there are particular life stages where the GHG impacts are particularly intensive. It also considers whether we might be able to generalise as to whether one particular beverage is more GHG intensive, per alcoholic unit consumed, than another.

Following this analysis, the options for emissions reduction are briefly considered. First the technological scope for improving efficiency is explored and here the focus is largely on drinks which can be and are produced in the UK. Wine is excluded from consideration since the vast majority is produced overseas. Next the discussion focuses on behaviour change. It looks at how much people drink, how this relates to current health drinking guidelines and how the overall greenhouse gas impacts of alcohol consumption might change were we to consume within the recommended limits.

Read the full report, The alcohol we drink and its contribution to the UK's greenhouse gas emissions, here (PDF link). See also the Foodsource resource What are the global challenges for nutrition?

Research library

Image: Smaack, Members of an organic community supported agriculture farm near Rostock, Germany, support the farmer by plugging weeds from the beet root field, Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International

FCRN member Hayo van der Werf has co-authored this perspective paper, which argues that current Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) methodologies tend to favour intensive farming systems and misrepresent organic and agroecological systems.

Image: Marco Verch, Sweet Potatoes on a Cutting Board, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

FCRN member Nicole Tichenor Blackstone has co-authored this paper, which compares the diets recommended by the EAT-Lancet Commission and by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). It finds areas of similarity as well as areas of divergence.

Image: Marco Verch, Raw salmon fillets on dark background, Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic

FCRN member Lukas Paul Fesenfeld has co-authored this paper, which surveys people from China, Germany and the United States to assess levels of public support for various types of policy aimed at reducing meat and fish consumption. It explores how “packaging” several policies together can increase acceptance among voters.

This report from UK food waste NGO Feedback and the Changing Markets Foundation assesses ten UK supermarkets on their aquaculture supply chain policies and practices, particularly regarding the use of wild fish as feed for farmed fish. Seven out of ten supermarkets scored less than 30%, with ALDI performing worst at 12% and Tesco performing best at 60%. The report finds that aquaculture operations for UK supermarkets consumed 2.5 times as much wild fish as the amount of farmed fish produced.

This report from global network Future Earth identifies the risks perceived by scientists to be most likely to lead to a global systemic crisis. Most of the scientists interviewed mentioned at least four of the five following risks: food, climate change, extreme weather, biodiversity loss and water. 

This book provides technical information on food safety and quality in developing countries, using case studies of various types of food including spices, cassava, fruits and vegetables and beverages.

In this piece in The Conversation, Tim Lang (Professor of Food Policy at City, University of London) argues that the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis exposes the fragility of the UK’s food supply chain, with limited storage, a just-in-time supply model, and nearly half of the UK’s food being imported. Lang calls for a food rationing system to be introduced to ensure everyone has access to food (read Lang’s letter to the UK Prime Minister here).

UK food waste NGO Feedback has curated a list of recommended reading on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis is linked to food systems, including the origins of the pandemic and the effects it is having on food supply chains. 

This podcast by the research programme Praxis: Arts and Humanities for Global Challenges discusses interdisciplinary research, balancing priorities of preserving local food varieties with feeding the population and the future food research agenda.

This piece in the UK’s Independent newspaper, by several researchers from the University of Oxford, sets out five questions that (they argue) should be considered by any policymaker or business setting a “net zero” greenhouse gas emissions target.


The Lancaster Environment Centre at Lancaster University is hiring a research associate/senior research associate for an interdisciplinary research project examining how urban food growing and urban greening influences the sustainability, resilience and health of our food system. The project is a collaboration between Lancaster University, University of Liverpool, and Cranfield University.

Candidates should have or be near to completing a relevant PhD, have a demonstrable interest in the research area of urban food systems and ecosystem services, and have research experience with urban agri-food systems, ecosystem service assessment and/or material flow analysis.

Read more here. The deadline is 26 March 2020.

Abstracts are invited for the symposium The Future of Food 2: Eating Socially and Sourcing Sustainably, to be held on 10 June 2020. Abstracts can cover topics such as:

  • Community and convivial practices of social eating and management of food surplus through grassroots initiatives, new business models and innovation
  • The risks associated with sustainable sourcing of food in both alternative and conventional supply chains
  • New forms of food practice such as consumer to consumer food sharing and collaboration in towns, cities and rural areas as part of building sustainable food systems
  • The changing nature of consumers’ engagement and market trends in the area of food
  • New digital technology for deploying food surpluses
  • Challenges of, and solutions to, food insecurity and food poverty
  • Practical applications of the circular economy principles to food supply chains such as best practices in managing food surplus
  • Ensuring values of sustainability in the operations management of supply chains

Read more here. Abstract submission is due 10 April 2020. The event team is monitoring the COVID-19 situation and will review the event’s feasibility in the week of 13 April 2020. 

EIT Food is offering a free run of its online course “An Introduction to Food Systems: Scientific, Technical and Socioeconomic Principles to Facilitate the Creation of Food Value Networks” (the usual cost is €50; the course will be free until 26 April 2020).

The course covers:

  • Why we need a food systems approach to solve future problems
  • The fundamentals of system science
  • Insights into the different parts of the food system: primary production and food processing, food distribution and consumption, side streams and food integrity

The course begins on 23 March 2020. Read more here

Nominations are invited for the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. This award, which comes with a $10,000 prize, will recognise exceptional, science-based achievement in international agriculture and food production by an individual under 40 who has clearly demonstrated intellectual courage, stamina, and determination in the fight to eliminate global hunger and poverty.

Read more here. Nominations are due by 15 June 2020.


The UK’s Eating Better alliance will host a webinar on 26 March 2020 to consider the question “How do we counter the growth of chicken?”, following the launch of Eating Better’s report We need to talk about chicken.

The webinar will hear perspectives from Philip Lymbery (CEO of Compassion in World Farming), Sue Pritchard (Director of The RSA Food, Farming & Countryside Commission) and Patrick Holden (Founder and Chief Executive of the Sustainable Food Trust). There will be a panel discussion and then an opportunity for views and questions from other participants in the webinar. The webinar will be hosted by Simon Billing, Executive Director of Eating Better.

Read more here.

This webinar on 30 March 2020, hosted by the UK’s Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), will discuss an initiative recently launched at the Oxford Farming Conference to maintain and attract a skilled workforce in the agricultural sector.

Read more here.

This webinar on 30 March 2020, hosted by the Israeli Fermentation Association, the Good Food Institute and the Weizmann Institute of Science, will discuss protein fermentation in Israel. 

Read more here.


The UK’s Food Ethics Council will run an online discussion on 31 March 2020 to address the impacts of COVID-19 on the food system and consider how short-term emergency responses can be coupled with longer-term systemic change that builds food systems more able to deal with shocks.

Read more here.