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Understanding the environmental impacts of consuming foods that are produced locally in season. - FO0412

Background: This research will form part of that evidence base within Defra’s Resource Efficient and Resilient Food Chain R&D programme and the Rural and Environment Research and Analysis Directorate of the Scottish Government. One of Defra’s current high level environmental behaviour goals is for consumers to eat more food that is locally in season. This research will help to determine whether this behaviour should remain as a high-level goal.

Research aims: The research will clarify the extent to which encouraging the consumption of locally in season food might reduce the negative impacts of food consumption and be a criteria for sustainable food purchasing. It will provide messages for consumers on the impacts of buying locally in season produce, and will be used to inform the continued development of governments’ environmental behaviour goals.
The research has two main parts.
Part 1 of the research will examine and define concepts of seasonality and establish the evidence base on the environmental life cycle impacts of seasonal commodities and products produced locally. The objectives of part 1 are:
• to examine the definitions and concepts of seasonality and how these have evolved over time and to identify the significance of seasonal effects in existing life-cycle analysis research;
• to assess how environmental impacts vary based upon different definitions and concepts;
• to undertake an analysis of the life-cycle environmental impacts of selected commodities in different production scenarios;
• to produce a case study illustrative calendar (on-line and pdf) demonstrating the potential range of seasonal produce available at different times throughout the year, and their environmental impacts.
Part 2 of this project builds on previous consumer research which studied interpretations and understanding of the terms ‘local’ and ‘regional’. This part of the study will determine the issues surrounding the consumption of foods that are produced locally in season through an exploration of consumers’ awareness, understanding, attitudes and behaviour towards seasonality. The objectives of part 2 are:
• to assess consumers’ awareness and understanding of seasonality as well as their attitudes and current behaviour towards seasonal food to enable patterns of consumption to be identified;
• to understand both the promoters and barriers to consumption of seasonal produce in terms of current ‘messages’ around seasonal, fresh produce as opposed to imported or non-seasonal produce;
• to understand the wider determinants of seasonal food consumption – for example, social norms and availability ; this aspect will also consider consumer perceptions of the role of supermarkets and the mainstream and food industry media in influencing demand;
• to identify the type of information, and its means of delivery, that is likely to influence consumers’ purchasing behaviour, in order to inform messages about seasonality.
The findings from this research will represent a valuable contribution to the evidence base informing Defra’s Food Chain Programme. Parts 1 and 2 will lead to further interpretation and knowledge transfer work with the following additional objectives:
• to assess the likely environmental costs and benefits of an increase in seasonal consumption and assess what extent should consumption of foods produced locally in season can be used as criteria of sustainable food purchasing;
• to make recommendations for how project outcomes could be used by policy makers and the food sector;
• to design and implement a knowledge transfer programme to exploit the outcomes/outputs of this project;
• to provide recommendations for how outcomes from the project could be used in a practical way by policy makers and the food sector.
Project Documents
• FRP - Final Report : FO0412 SID 5 draft v20 05 Aug 12   (531k)
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2009

To: 2010

Cost: £185,813
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Agriculture and Food Chain              
Environmental Impacts              
Food and Drink              
Food Chain              
Food Industry Sustainability Strategy              
Resource efficient and resilient food chain              
Sustainable Farming and Food              
Sustainable Farming and Food Science              
Fields of Study
Resource Efficient and Resilient Food Chain