Our work supports the switch from meat and dairy to alternative sources of protein, so reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the food system. Increasing consumer awareness and the rising demand for meat and dairy alternatives supports growth of the alternative proteins sector, which is underpinned by innovation in plant-based and cell-based technologies.
We face many barriers to identifying sustainable food solutions include:
- Data: We lack public, consistent and usable datasets on the food system, capital allocation, business strategies, and environmental and animal welfare consequences.
- Evidence: We lack core evidence about which policies, regulation, indices, labels, nudges, and systemic interventions can move the needle.
- Solutions: Food systems are complex and varied. We need to find the leverage points, and the public and private investments that can most effectively scale up new and sustainable food systems.
Engaging with partners and the global south
In addition to interdisciplinary research, SFS will build academic and public knowledge of food.
First, SFS will work towards supporting the next generation of talented researchers through developing a sustainable food masters course, and supervising masters and DPhil students.
Second, SFS will develop collaborations with researchers leading on food across ecosystems, focusing on the global south. Evidence has shown that climate science research is concentrated in the global north: less than 1% of the top 100 most cited papers from 2016 to 2020 had researchers from the entire continent of Africa - home to 16% of the world’s population (Carbon Brief, 2021).
Third, SFS will consistently engage with producers, consumers, retailers, public and people from excluded backgrounds. This includes having a diverse advisory board, combined with a focus on relationships and engagement by the lead researchers.
Complementing the wider Oxford community
This interdisciplinary food solutions initiative will complement and amplify existing Oxford research streams, cementing Oxford’s position as a global centre for food-related research. Key groups involved include the Oxford Martin School, the NDPH, the Zoology Department, the Smith School of Enterprise and the Environment, the Environmental Change Institute, the School of Geography and Environment more broadly, among others.
Our growing team
The newly-formed Food initiative team includes:
- Dr Michael Clark, whose work explores how our dietary choices affect environmental sustainability and human health
- Dr Alex Money, whose research explores the economics of alternative proteins
- Joseph Poore, working to increase our understanding of the environmental impacts of agriculture and create solutions to mitigate these impacts
An estimate of the environmental impact of 57,000 food products in the UK and Ireland provides a first step towards enabling consumers, retailers, and policymakers to make informed decisions on the environmental impacts of food and drink products.
Taxing meat could be an important lever for aligning Western diets with environmental goals and can be designed such that low-income households and farmers are compensated, find a forthcoming paper in the Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, co-authored by SSEE Director Cameron Hepburn.
A new working paper from the Smith School describes the rapid growth of corporate venturing in the alternative proteins sector, and why this could represent a step-change in the transition of global food systems to net zero.