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: 24 September 2020

In Fodder this week

Regeneration of native woodland on former sheep pasture could be a financially viable strategy for farmers; limited progress has been made on global biodiversity targets; FCRN member Simon Bager assesses sustainability strategies in the global coffee sector; FCRN member David Cleveland quantifies the animal welfare and environmental implications of replacing eggs with soy; and FCRN member Paul Behrens explores both pessimistic and optimistic visions of the future of food, energy and climate in a new book, “The Best of Times, The Worst of Times”.

Featured FCRN publication

This Foodsource chapter, written in 2016, explores how and by how much food system emissions can be reduced, while also feeding a growing population.

There are different perspectives on how food systems emissions can be reduced and it is helpful to explore these since these differences also underpin many other debates around food system sustainability. Understanding these perspectives helps to put specific proposals for reducing food system emissions into a wider food systems context.  

This chapter, therefore, provides an overview of the following:

  • What greenhouse gas reductions are needed across all sectors (i.e. not just food), in order to meet globally agreed climate change targets?
  • What are current trends in food production and consumption and what impact might these have on future food-related greenhouse gas emissions?
  • What are the three major perspectives on how food systems emissions should be reduced, and what combination of these approaches might be required?
  • How does the need to reduce agricultural emissions relate to wider discussions on what food systems are preferable?

Read the full chapter online here or download a PDF version here

Research library

Image: Burst, White mug on brown wooden table, Pexels, Creative Commons Zero

This paper, co-authored by FCRN member Simon Bager, assesses the sustainability practices of a sample of hundreds of companies in the global coffee sector, including producers, traders, roasters, processors and cafés. It reports that around one third of the companies have no sustainability commitments, another third have one to four commitments and the remaining third have five or more sustainability commitments.

Image: Megha Mangal, Fried egg with seasonings, Pexels, Pexels Licence

This paper, co-authored by FCRN member David Cleveland, aims to quantify the animal welfare and environmental implications of replacing egg-based mayonnaise with plant-based mayonnaise and replacing eggs with tofu, using a case study from the University of California, Santa Barbara. 

Image: Pexels, English oak leaves, Pixabay, Pixabay Licence

This paper reports that reforesting areas of land in the UK currently used for sheep grazing could be an economically viable strategy for farmers, using payments for carbon sequestration from people or businesses who want to offset their emissions The paper argues that sheep farming in the UK is not profitable without subsidies, which currently account for over 90% of sheep farm income. 

This report from the Convention on Biological Diversity summarises the most recent information on trends in biodiversity. It finds that none of the 20 Aichi Biodiversity Targets - the deadline for most of which is 2020 - have been fully met, although six of the targets have been partially met. It also describes the areas of the targets where progress has been made.

This report from the UK charity the Soil Association examines how disruption to the nitrogen cycle can damage the climate, biodiversity and human health. It proposes replacing widespread use of synthetic fertilisers with agroecological use of nitrogen-fixing legumes and manure from grass-fed livestock. 

In this report, UK food waste NGO Feedback critically assesses the narrative that anaerobic digestion (AD) is a viable solution for producing renewable gas from organic matter such as crops and wastes. The report argues that preventing food waste in the first place is more effective than generating biogas from waste food, particularly if trees were to be planted on the land spared.

This book by FCRN member Paul Behrens uses paired chapters of pessimism and hope to show how much needs to be done to achieve a hopeful future, but how this would involve actively building a healthier and more fulfilling world. The book covers subjects including food, energy, climate and economics.

In this book, farmer and writer James Rebanks describes how the landscape and community that his family farm is part of has changed over the past few decades as farming methods have become more intensive.

US retailer Walmart, the world’s largest company by revenue, has announced a goal to become a “regenerative company”. Specific targets include protecting, managing or restoring at least 50 million acres of land (which is equivalent to around 2% of the United States’ land area) and one million square miles of ocean (<1% of the global ocean area) by 2030, and achieving net zero emissions by 2040. The net zero target appears to cover only Walmart’s direct emissions, not food and product supply chain emissions.

The FCRN’s Tara Garnett took part in a webinar titled “Do we need to stop eating meat and dairy to tackle climate change?” organised by Carbon Brief. The panel also included Prof Pete Smith of the University of Aberdeen, Dr Helen Harwatt of Chatham House and Dr Modi Mwatsama of the Wellcome Trust. The webinar covered the climate impacts of different food types, carbon sequestration through restoration of native vegetation, health impacts of animal products and the cultural and economic factors influencing dietary patterns. 

An recording of the launch event for the UK’s National Food Strategy, held on 29 July 2020, is now available online. The National Food Strategy is a year-long review of the UK’s food system. Read more about the review here and read the FCRN’s summary of Part One of the review here.


The charity Pesticide Action Network UK is hiring a collaboration coordinator. Responsibilities include communicating with member organisations, writing online and offline communications materials, liaising with journalists and decision makers, public speaking, organising events and contributing to fundraising proposals and reporting.

Candidates should have experience of developing policy positions and recommendations, excellent written and verbal communication skills, basic understanding of pesticides and their impacts on health and environment and a commitment to achieving environmental and social justice.

Read more here. The deadline is 4 October 2020.

UK B-Corp Greener Beans is hiring a Head of Research to establish and run its research department. 

The role will involve reviewing, assessing, and summarising the latest research on sustainable food systems to feed into the Greener Beans Sustainability Measurement System (which provides product swap recommendations to grocery shoppers). Other responsibilities will include expanding the research team, designing organisational research protocols and procedures and coordinating with technology colleagues to automate processes.

Candidates should have five or more years of experience in food sustainability, experience of both quantitative and qualitative research techniques, excellent verbal and interpersonal skills and confidence in leading a team.

Read more here. The deadline is 7 October 2020.

Conservation NGO WWF-UK is hiring a Food and Landscapes Policy Officer to assist in advocacy work with policymakers, business and consumers. Responsibilities include producing new reports and policy briefings, undertaking policy research and pulling together information to support engagement with the UK Government, companies and other stakeholders.

Candidates should have: a relevant degree and/or work experience on protection of forests globally, achieving sustainable landscapes, deforestation/conversion-free supply chains and/or restoring UK nature; the ability to manage projects; excellent communication and relationship building skills; and the ability to absorb complex information and translate it into impactful policy advice and communications.

Read more here. The deadline is 9 October 2020.

The Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research and Charité Universitätsmedizin Berlin are advertising a postdoctoral position in a newly established research group on climate change and health with a focus on malnutrition.

The role will involve developing and conducting research projects in the field of climate change and health with a focus on agriculture/nutrition or a related topic. Candidates should have a relevant doctoral degree, expertise in epidemiology, strong quantitative analytical research skills and two or more years of project management experience and technical expertise in the conduct of research studies.

Read more here and apply here. The deadline is 16 October 2020.

FCRN member Professor Susanne Freidberg is advertising a fully-funded PhD position in the area of sustainability and agro-food supply chains at the Ecology, Evolution, Environment & Society (EEES) graduate programme at Dartmouth College (New Hampshire, US). 

The successful candidate will have a demonstrated capacity for original research, and a commitment to interdisciplinary approaches such as political ecology or science and technology studies. A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree in an environmental social science (geography, environmental studies, anthropology, or rural sociology) is preferable. 

Applications are due 1 December, 2020. To initiate an application please email a brief statement of interest and a CV to Professor Susanne Freidberg (


This online event on 25 September 2020, hosted by the Food Forever initiative, the international non-profit Crop Trust, organic farm Pocono Organics and US non-profit Rodale Institute, will discuss the importance of crop diversity and its connection to healthy soils and resilient, sustainable agricultural systems.

The event will also present findings from a global white paper from the Rodale Institute that looks at the potential of regenerative organic agriculture to reduce emissions and maximise carbon sequestration in soils.

Read more here

This webinar on 25 September 2020, hosted by the Better Food Foundation, will discuss how a Default Veg strategy (making plant-based food the default) could be used to take action on climate change.

Register here.

This online panel discussion on 30 September 2020, hosted by the the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment at the University of Oxford, will provide a forum to explore a range of pressing questions and innovative initiatives around efforts to tackle environmental crises in a way that increases prosperity and reduces economic and social inequalities.

Read more here


This online conference, running from 6 to 10 October 2020 and hosted by the Good Food Institute India, will discuss how foods made from plants, cells, and microorganisms could help to tackle zoonotic disease, antimicrobial resistance, climate change, and food insecurity.

Read more here