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 July 2019

Fodder is taking a summer break

Fodder is taking a break for the summer period and will return in September.

In Fodder this week

FCRN member Peter Alexander was inspired by the British cycling team to apply the approach of multiple marginal gains to the food system, finding that a set of 29 incremental improvements across the supply chain could reduce agricultural land use by between 21% and 37%. The FAO reports that the number of undernourished people is rising, Eating Better makes policy recommendations for halving UK meat and dairy consumption, and the UK’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission sets out 15 recommendations to policymakers, business and communities.

Featured FCRN publication

A question that emerged from FCRN's 2015 reflections paper Animal efficiencies, animal welfare: either/or, or both/and? Some Reflections from an Informal Meeting, which documented a meeting with various experts on animal farming, was whether breeding for productivity and animal welfare can be aligned.

In this 2015 follow-up discussion paper, Tara Garnett and colleagues from the Swedish Agricultural University (SLU) consider the productivity-welfare relationship in more detail. They argue that this is a critical issue to understand if we are to improve our knowledge of what more sustainable systems of livestock production and consumption look like.

Download the full paper Breeding for productivity and breeding for welfare: what is the relationship? here (PDF link). See also the Foodsource building block What is animal welfare?

Research library

Image: Public Domain Pictures, Slices Of Bread On A White Background, CC0 Public Domain

FCRN member Peter Alexander has co-authored this paper, which finds that incremental improvements in several areas of the food system (including production efficiency, reducing food waste and changing diets) could reduce agricultural land use by between 21% and 37%, depending on adoption rates. 

Image: Pxhere, Avocado cherry tomatoes, CC0 Public Domain

FCRN member Gesa Biermann of Ludwig-Maximilians-University Munich has co-authored this paper, which analyses trends on a popular German recipe website, finding annual growth rates of 16% in vegetarian recipes and 3.5% in vegan recipes between 2005 and 2018. 

The final report of the UK’s Food, Farming and Countryside Commission sets out 15 recommendations to policymakers, business and communities across the areas of healthy food, a ‘fourth agricultural revolution’ based on agroecological principles, and rural communities. 

In this report, Rosalind Sharpe of the Food Research Collaboration documents a series of interviews with farmers in the UK, showing whether and how human health factors into their work and decision making. The report was produced in collaboration with The RSA Food, Farming and Countryside Commission (read the Commission's report here).

The World Resources Institute has released its full and final report on “Creating a sustainable food future”. The report addresses the question “Can we feed the world without destroying the planet?”, specifically asking whether the food system can feed nearly 10 billion people adequately by 2050, without expanding the area of agricultural land, and while avoiding dangerous levels of climate change.

The FAO’s 2019 edition of its “The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World” report finds that the number of hungry people is increasing, with around 820 million people worldwide experiencing undernourishment. This year’s report also finds that around 2 billion people experience either severe or moderate food insecurity, with the phenomenon found in low, middle and high income countries.

This Business Forum Report from the Food Ethics Council explores the ethical implications of the food industry’s involvement with food charity projects such as school breakfast clubs or donations of food and money by supermarkets. 

This report from the US non-profit Croatan Institute quantifies the current US landscape of investments in regenerative agriculture, including in-depth analyses across asset classes (such as farmland and venture capital), and presents a series of recommendations for investors and stakeholders to build soil health and community wealth through regenerative agriculture.

The book Sustainability of the Food System: Sovereignty, Waste, and Nutrients Bioavailability addresses food sustainability through the lens of food sovereignty, environmentally friendly food processes, and food technologies that increase the bioavailability of bioactive compounds.

Eating Better has released a roadmap of 24 actions that government, food service, retailers, food producers and investors can take to halve UK meat and dairy consumption by 2030 and to switch to “better” meat and dairy as standard. 

This opinion piece in The Hill by Stephanie Feldstein, population and sustainability director at the Centre for Biological Diversity, argues that the US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (which is reviewing the guidelines for their 2020-2025 edition) is strongly influenced by the food industry and that the committee will not be allowed to conduct a full review of the evidence on questions such as food sustainability.

In our 24th September Newsletter, we mentioned that the EU is considering plans to limit crop-based biofuels to 5% of transport fuel. Biofuels have been promoted in recent years, largely because of the belief that they will help reduce transport’s impact on the environment, and particularly because of its contribution to climate change. But the indirect effects of growing crops to make fuel have seriously challenged these assumptions.  


FCRN member Roni Neff is on a team of researchers and professionals working to address waste of food in cities. The team’s goal is to identify priority research questions that must be addressed in order to advance policy and practice efforts. 

The team is running a 10 minute survey to identify the top challenges associated with reducing food waste, increasing food donation, and recycling food and food scraps in cities, and what evidence is most needed to help respond to those challenges.

The results of the survey will be shared through a written report.

Take the survey here. The deadline is 1 August 2019. For queries, please contact

US-based Clara Foods, a San Francisco-based cellular agriculture company making egg whites from cell culture, is hiring a senior protein scientist to lead protein research, discovery and analysis projects, develop protocols for isolating high purity proteins from microbial, plant or animal sources, and carry out inspection, calibration and maintenance of analytical instrumentation.

Candidates should have a master’s degree in protein chemistry, biochemistry, microbiology or similar program, have 5 to 10 years of experience in an industrial setting, and be authorised to work in the United States.

For more details, see here. No deadline is specified.

Wageningen University & Research is hiring an applied researcher to conduct research activities on innovations in business networks in the agriculture and food domain, with emphasis on creating value for various stakeholders and stimulating innovation adoption. 

Candidates should have an MSc or PhD degree in, for example, innovation studies, transition management, business studies, economics, science and technology studies, responsible research and innovation or (business) ethics, as well as at least three years of research experience.

Read more here. The deadline is 6 August 2019.

Submissions are open for papers on the topic of “Current Status and Trends in Urban Agriculture”, for the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. Manuscripts can approach this topic from a wide range of perspectives including, but not limited to:

  • Ecology
  • Agronomy
  • Food justice
  • Food distribution
  • Community development
  • Human well-being
  • Economics
  • City and regional planning
  • Land tenure
  • Engineering
  • Vertical farming
  • Hydroponics
  • Human nutrition 

Read more here. The deadline for abstract submission is 23 August 2019.

The UK charity Food Ethics Council is recruiting for a part-time communications officer (0.5 FTE) to work in its office in Kings Cross, London. The communications officer will help the Food Ethics Council develop and implement its communications strategy, including managing its website, social media channels, media relations and events.

Candidates should have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and ideally have knowledge of Microsoft Office 365, WordPress, Mailchimp and Slack.

Full details of the role, including the person specification, can be found here. The deadline for applications is noon on 3 September 2019.

Submissions are open for papers on the topic “Virtual Water in Food Supply Chains”, for the journal Frontiers in Sustainable Food Systems. Papers can relate to how to manage water in food supply value chains, how to account for ‘virtual water’, ‘water-smart’ supply chain management and the impact of climate and social disruptions to future trade. 

Read more here. The deadline for abstract submission is 30 September 2019.


London Food Link, part of UK food and farming charity Sustain, will run a networking event on 29 July 2019 for urban food growers, small batch producers, chefs and restaurateurs.

Speakers will include:

Read more here.

FCRN member Matthew Fielding will speak at this webinar on 26 September 2019 on soil degradation and the Sustainable Development Goals, hosted by SIANI (the Swedish International Agriculture Network Initiative).

The webinar will present a model that combines natural sciences and economics that will help policy makers evaluate strategies and raise awareness amongst farmers and advisors over the importance of soil structure for food production, soil health and ecosystem resilience.

Questions that will be asked:

  1. Why is land pushed so hard?
  2. What role does soil structure have in sustainable agriculture?
  3. What is the value of healthy soils?

For more details and to reserve a space, see here.

The Reducetarian Summit will run from 27 to 29 September 2019. The goal of the event is to bring together people and perspectives from all corners of the world to explore strategies and tactics for reducing societal consumption of animal products and ending factory farming.

Read more here.

This conference on 30 September 2019, organised by the Institute for Ecological Economy Research and the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, will discuss recent research findings that indicate ecological impacts elsewhere from goods imported to Germany. Specifically, it will highlight environmental impacts and suggest policy responses for lithium, soy (for meat production) and cotton. The focus will be on policy options that can contribute to mitigating the pressure that consumption places on biodiversity and ecosystem services worldwide.

Read more here.

This day-and-a-half conference will bring together academics and professionals from the interdisciplinary field of food studies and food sustainability research to reflect on attitudes towards food preservation and food waste from early modernity to the present. The title reflects an ongoing historiographical effort to better understand consuming behaviours through time. Topics include food preservation, food rationing, the management of food waste or efforts to reduce it, as well as its moral, religious, and political implications. The programme is also designed to open up a dialogue between scholars of the past and policy makers, and will serve as a platform for the discussion of more sustainable food practices in the present and future.

Read more about the conference here and book tickets here. The conference will be held at the University of Cambridge, UK on 12 and 13 September 2019.