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Flemish consumer attitudes towards more sustainable food choices

This paper looks at the attitudes of different consumer segments to reducing meat consumption / consuming alternatives to meat consumption. It finds that general awareness of the environmental impacts of meat consumption is fairly low, and that while there is some acceptance of consuming less meat or consuming alternatives, this is not the case for all consumers and varies by consumer segment.

Abstract and citation as follows:
Vanhonacker F, Van Loo E J, Gellynck X and Verbeke W (2013). Flemish consumer attitudes towards more sustainable food choices. Appetite 62 7–16.

Intensive agricultural practices and current western consumption patterns are associated with increased ecological pressure. One way to reduce the ecological impact could be a shift to more sustainable food choices. This study investigates consumer opinions towards a series of food choices with a lower ecological impact. The investigated food choices range from well-known meat substitutes to alternatives which are more radical or innovative and that require an adaptation of food habits and cultural patterns. Results are obtained through a survey among 221 Flemish respondents in Spring 2011. Many consumers underestimate the ecological impact of animal production. Well-known alternatives such as organic meat, moderation of meat consumption and sustainable fish are accepted, although willingness to pay is clearly lower than willingness to consume. Consumers are more reluctant to alternatives that (partly) ban or replace meat in the meal. Opportunities of introducing insects currently appear to be non-existent. Five consumer segments were identified based on self-evaluated ecological footprint and personal relevance of the ecological footprint. The segments were termed Conscious, Active, Unwilling, Ignorant and Uncertain. A profile in terms of demographics, attitudinal and behavioral characteristics is developed for each segments, and conclusions with respect to opportunities for sustainable food choices are discussed.

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Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering just over 10 million square kilometres or 6.8% of the global land area, but it is the third-most populous continent after Asia and Africa, with a population of around 740 million people or about 11% of the world's population. Its climate is heavily affected by warm Atlantic currents that temper winters and summers on much of the continent. In the European Union, farmers represent only 4.7% of the working population, yet manage nearly half of its land area.

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