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Consumer strategies towards a more sustainable food system: insights from Switzerland

Frehner, A.; de Boer, I.J.M.; Müller, A.; van Zanten, H.H.E. and Schader, C. (2022) Consumer strategies towards a more sustainable food system: insights from Switzerland. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 115 (4), pp. 1039-1047.

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Document available online at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34871355/


To improve the sustainability performance of food systems, consumption- as well as production-side changes are needed.
To this end, we assessed multiple sustainability impacts of six consumer strategies for Switzerland.
Two strategies encompassed dietary changes: following a pescetarian diet and adhering to the national dietary guidelines. Two strategies employed alternative farming systems: increasing the share of organic production and, in addition, applying the circularity principle of avoiding feed-food competition by limiting livestock feed to low-opportunity-cost biomass. A fifth strategy reduced food waste. The sixth strategy increased the share of domestic produce. For all strategies, we assessed greenhouse gas emissions, land use, nitrogen surplus, social risks, diet quality, and diet costs.
The strategies revealed trade-offs between impact categories, unless combined in a synergistic way. While dietary changes towards more plant-based diets reduced environmental impacts (up-to 51%) and increased diet quality (up-to 57%), they increased social risks due to increased sourcing from contexts with potentially bad labour conditions (up-to 19%). Further, when the share of organic produce was increased, land use and dietary costs were increased (up-to 33% and 42%, respectively). The effect on land use could however be reversed when circularity principles were introduced in addition to the organic production standard, resulting in reductions for all environmental indicators (up-to 75%). Reducing food waste and increasing the share of domestic produce led to better sustainability performance as well, but at lower orders of magnitude.
Combining all proposed strategies could lead to substantial favorable changes on all impact categories assessed, but would require a thorough transformation of the current food system. Yet, also the sum of individual consumers each following only one of the strategies proposed makes up an important contribution towards improving the sustainability performance of the Swiss food system.

EPrint Type:Journal paper
Keywords:diet, biomass, food, labor, nitrogen, changes in diet, farm animals, nutrition guidelines, plant-based diet, greenhouse gases, environmental indicators, Abacus, FiBL35136
Agrovoc keywords:
food systems
greenhouse gases
Subjects: Environmental aspects > Air and water emissions
"Organics" in general > Countries and regions > Switzerland
Research affiliation: Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Society > Agri-food policy > Modeling
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Society > Agri-food policy > Policy development
Switzerland > FiBL - Research Institute of Organic Agriculture Switzerland > Sustainability > Sustainability assessment
Deposited By: Forschungsinstitut für biologischen Landbau, FiBL
ID Code:44622
Deposited On:17 Nov 2022 09:19
Last Modified:24 Feb 2023 09:19
Document Language:English
Refereed:Peer-reviewed and accepted

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