Implications of a nutrition-driven food policy for the countryside, 2005-2008
This is a mixed method data collection. The study is part of the Rural Economy and Land Use (RELU) programme.
The objectives of the research were to examine the effectiveness of policies designed to promote healthy eating; to examine the potential for the development of sustainable UK food chains capable of delivering healthier foods that consumers wish to buy at prices they are willing to pay; and to assess the impacts of such developments on human health, rural land use, employment and the rural environment. Policies to promote healthy eating may create shifts in people's consumption patterns that may lead to significant changes in agricultural regimes and land use patterns, which in turn may have a widespread effect on landscapes, farmland biodiversity and rural employment.
The researchers looked at the most effective ways to encourage consumers to eat more healthily, whether by fiscal measures - taxes on foods high in saturated fats combined with subsidies on fruit and vegetables - and the promotion of healthy eating by advertising through social marketing, or by trying to enhance the nutritional qualities of the foods that people eat. The research follows an integrated food chain approach and looked into two case studies - flavonoids in soft fruit and lettuce and saturated fatty acids in lamb meat - to determine whether production methods can make a difference to food composition and whether consumers would be willing to pay more for healthier food. It was found that use of novel UV plastic film in poly-tunnels could help to enhance the flavonoid and antioxidant capacity of vegetables, whilst it had no effect on flavonoids in soft fruit. Grazing sheep on biodiverse pastures seems to have a beneficial effect on the fatty acid profiles of the lamb produced. Focus groups and choice experiments show consumers are prepared to pay the extra production costs.