The Carbon footprint of cheese – a ‘step’ too far?

  • A recent survey across UK supermarkets showed that 72% of consumers were in favour of carbon footprint labels on food. The study also reported that 42% of customers had altered their shopping behaviour in response to environmental concerns.

    (c) Dave Bleasdale http://www.flickr.com

  • Whilst this shows promise for developing consumer attitudes, 89% of respondents found existing carbon footprint labels confusing and difficult to understand when comparing across products.
  • Researchers have similar concerns. They claim that one number cannot provide enough information for consumers to make informed decisions about the “goodness” of their food choices. Carbon footprint is only one descriptor of how “green” food is.
  • For example, strawberries grown in Spain may have a lower carbon footprint (due to less intensive farming practices), but may use valuable water in areas that have shortages. Similarly, one pack of pork may have a low carbon footprint, but have been reared with lower quality of life.
  • There are also concerns that food production companies/ supermarkets will not have the available skills to properly assess the carbon footprint, and that methods will vary across the industry making results inconsistent and incomparable. This raises questions about the long term viability and usefulness of the approach.

Government, alongside industry, will need to fully weigh up the benefits and costs of carbon footprint labels. In particular, they will need to consider whether the labels will induce false confidence in consumers and influence buying choices based on an incomplete picture of environmental consequences.

For more information, visit http://tinyurl.com/ch3t8r6

About Hayley Shaw

Knowledge Exchange Manager at Cranfield University's Centre for Environmental Risks and Futures (CERF). Sharing the latest news from Cranfield, and insights from across the industry. All things risk, environment, and the future.
This entry was posted in Consumer Attitudes and Behaviour. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to The Carbon footprint of cheese – a ‘step’ too far?

  1. Dr M C Smith says:

    But how many of the general public actually understand what a carbon footprint is? Given the current age of austerity, a more pragmatic application would be to link it to savings which can be passed on the consumers – low prices will always be the number one driving force for the majority of consumers despite what they say in surveys!

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