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Food citizenship: A review of consumer buying behaviour and the processes required to motivate sustainable consumption and the local food system.

Food citizenship: A review of consumer buying behaviour and the processes required to motivate sustainable consumption and the local food system.

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An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by sadhbh moore. Originally submitted for Review essay in Sustainable Development at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr Darren McCauley in the category of Social Studies
An essay for the 2012 Undergraduate Awards (International Programme) Competition by sadhbh moore. Originally submitted for Review essay in Sustainable Development at University of St. Andrews, with lecturer Dr Darren McCauley in the category of Social Studies

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Aug 31, 2012
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Food citizenship: A review of consumer buying behaviour and the processes required tomotivate sustainable consumption and the local food system.This essay was written as a review of an aspect of sustainable development, of which studentswere allowed to chose a topic of particular interest to them, in order to undertake a more in-depth study of the literature and current research in that area. The aim of the study was toidentify current consumer buying behaviour in relation to local food, to critically analyse themost recent literature on this topic, and to identify areas in need of improvement and furtherresearch to make consumption of local food more commonplace. In order to put the subjectmatter into context food citizenship is explained and the purchasing of local food as a factorof food citizenship is explained. Included is a review of the viability of utilising some of themost highly regarded consumer behaviour models to predict or explain the more recentlypopular activity of ethical buying and the pursuit of food citizenship. This ranges from adiscussion of various behaviour change theories, such as the theory of change and the theoryof reasoned action, to consumer behaviour terminology particularly relevant whenconsidering ethical buying, such as the value-action gap. The methods employed to carry outthis research were the reading and review of relevant literature and secondary material,followed by critical analysis and cross comparison of information on sustainable and localfood systems consumption, as well as analysis of consumer behaviour theory. The mainfindings of this review essay were that, in general, consumer behaviour theories aresomewhat outdated and unsuited to describing some of the modern motivations for buyingcertain produce, such as sustainable, ethical or local foods. It was found that further researchis needed into consumer behaviour and the connection between excessive consumption andmaterialism and food purchasing patterns. Potential implications of advanced research andinvestment in the promotion of local food is for reduced carbon footprints and reduced foodmiles, as well as the promotion of local economies through support for local agriculture andbusiness.
The notion of food citizenship emerged from the literature of the last few decadessurrounding alternative food movements and networks (Baker, 2010). Wilkins (2005)suggests a definition of food citizenship as the practice of engaging in certain behaviourssurrounding food that support the development of a democratic, socially and economically just, and environmentally sustainable food system, to the exclusion of practices and processesthat evidently threaten these ideals. Food citizenship is expressed through consumerbehaviour such as purchasing local food which creates a demand
for ‗
sustainableconsumption (Seyfang, 2006). This paper will discuss
‗local food‘
, framing it in the contextof some of the most relevant consumer behaviour theories, analysing their suitability and
effectiveness for understanding the consumer buying behaviour surrounding local food. Thebehaviour intention gap and influencing features over attitudes will be discussed. Someexamples from relevant literature will be presented, analysing what encourages people to buylocal food and what steps are being taken to grow the support for this alternative sustainablefood network.
What is local food?Buying Fairtrade, organic, free-range, local, from co-ops, and home-growing for reasons of environmental and social justice through supporting alternative food systems, all come underthe umbrella term of food citizenship (Gliessman, 2006). The local food systems are typifiedby a short food chain, with food being produced near the consumer (Roininen, 2006). Thereis no fixed definition of local food (Martinez et al, 2010). It requires a social construction of scale, and differs depending where and by who the term is being applied (Hinrichs, 2003). Itmay sometimes be considered as food from within 100 miles, or other times less than 400miles, or may even be defined according to county boundaries (Hinrichs, 2003: Martinez etal, 2010). Locavorism is a term that was popularised in 2005 by a group of food citizens inSan Francisco who started a website, Locavores.com, to promote their effort to eat only foodthat had been grown or harvested within 100 miles of San Francisco, for a month (Time,2006). They were inspir
ed by Gary Paul Nabhan‘s book ―Coming Home to Eat‖ (2002) in
which he aims to make sure that his diet consists 90% of food sourced within a 250 mileradius of where he lives for a year, outlining the cultural and environmental significance of eating close to home. This sequence of events is sometimes considered the initiation of thelocal food movement.
The fact that the word ―Locavore‖ (a person whose diet consists only
or principally of locally grown or produced food) was the Oxford Dictionary Word of theYear in 2008 proves just how much this relatively new aspect of food citizenship is gatheringmomentum and support (Bingen et al, 2009). Eating local is, arguably, wholly morerepresentative than other aspects, such as organic or fairtrade, of the ideals of food citizenshipas it is environmentally, socially and (local) economically beneficial. It could be said it isbroader reaching in its ethical effort. Comparatively, the Fairtrade standard only ensures thanwhen a product is grown and harvested a fairer price is given to the workers in the developingcountries that it is procured from, but it still has a huge carbon footprint in terms of 
‖ (la Trobe and Acott, 1993)
. A DEFRA study (Owen et al, 2008) estimated that 10kgof carbon per household, assuming the tonnage of food being transported by air-freight wasreduced by 10%, could be saved due to eating local seasonal food, but the study failed to
specify over what timescale this applies to, which makes the figure somewhat arbitrary. Thereport goes on to diminish the importance of this very achievable consumer behaviour changeby comparing it to more drastic lifestyle changes, such as home insulation, that would save alot more carbon overall. It considers replacing eating local seasonal food as a priority aim forthe report with another behaviour change
...given its modest CO2 and biodiversity impactscompared with all the other headline goals
‖, which seems to show how the report completely
misses the point of how this small behaviour change represents more of a paradigm lifestyleshift and ethos, essentially promoting voluntary simplicity (Kasser, 2011), as well as beingoverall more ethical than corporately produced foods (Zepeda and Deal, 2009). Organicfarming is of course imperative for a more sustainable and less environmentally damagingversion of farming, usually preserving a greater range of biodiversity in farms than otherforms of pesticide intensive farming, but buying organic often means also buying fromabroad, as a large amount of organic produce available in the UK and Ireland is from Spain orfurther afield. In 1998, 70% of organic food in the UK was imported, with the volume of air-freighted organic food having increased by 15% from 1993 to 1994 (La Trobe and Acott,1993: De Selincourt, 1997).
It is sometimes more difficult to understand people‘s relationship with ‗local food‘ as it is not
as well defined a term as organic and has various interpretations, as aforementioned, withoutthe certification standards that organic food has. There is evidence to support a connectionbetween
the buying of organic food with being more ‗food system aware‘ (Torjusen et al.,
2001) in general, but it is not as clear-cu
t a connection with ‗local food‘
. Proximity of ourfood sources is increasingly understood to be intrinsic to sustainability (Pollan, 2006). Theunderstanding of 
food miles
helps us to further understand the implication of currentagriculture norms with climate change and fossil fuel consumption (Millstone and Lang,2004: 66). Eating local foods is increasingly recognised to be central to sustainable foodsystems as it is
reducing one‘s personal carbon footprint
through reduced ―food miles‖
, aswell as promoting the local economy and supporting local and regional farmers (Pretty andHine, 2001). When analysing consumer buying behaviour for potential use in instigatingbehaviour change, it is necessary to realise that consumers are, of course, not onehomogenous group (Vermeir and Verbeke, 2006: Weatherell
et al
, 2003), but have variedlevels of concern and action, and must be appealed to accordingly when efforts are made toraise awareness or increase uptake of local food consumption.

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