Date: 10th April 2017
Venue: City University London
Dissertation Prize Awarded
City, University of London, runs a unique MSc programme in Food Policy that recruits students from the UK and around the world who want to change the food system for the better. Each year they award the Worshipful Company of Farmers Prize to the student with the best dissertation of relevance to the food and farming sector. For the 2015-16 cohort, this was Martin Ødegård. Martin is Norwegian and his dissertation was entitled “The complexity of sustainability food labelling: the case of beef in Norway”. His research explored the awareness of the environmental impact of beef production among a sample of the Norwegian population; and the potential role of labelling to influence consumer behaviour in this area.
“I am very proud my dissertation was selected for the Worshipful Company of Farmers Prize this year. I would like to thank the staff at City, University of London for an insightful and exciting year. Extended thanks go to my supervisors for indispensable comments and guidance throughout the dissertation process”, says Martin. He further explains that the MSc programme in Food Policy at City, University of London approach policy-making and the food system from various perspectives (economic, social, political), which helped him understand and analyse the complexity of communicating information through the supply chain to consumers.
The research consisted of a two-part questionnaire, administered to a sample of 100 members of the Norwegian public. In the first part the participants’ awareness of beef’s environmental impact were investigated. The participants were then presented an information sheet, outlining the various modes of production and information about their environmental impact. In the second part, participants were asked if they had been aware about these environmental impacts prior to taking part in the survey; and whether being aware of this information was likely to change their consumption behaviour.
The data showed some general awareness in the Norwegian population of the environmental impact of various modes of meat production. The majority reported they believed beef production was less sustainable than other types of meat production. Participants were, however, generally unaware about the relative impacts different modes of production of beef have on the environment. These findings suggest that there may be potential in communicating such information to increase consumers’ awareness. After the participants were informed about beef’s environmental impact, there were variability in their willingness to change the pattern of beef consumption to reduce these impacts. Generally, women appeared more willing to change than men. Investigating labelling as a possible communication tool, Martin concluded that the evidence about the sustainability of different modes of beef production methods is complex and would be difficult to represent through simple food labels. Regardless, raising public awareness about these issues would be beneficial.