Relu datasets on sustainable food chains

Article dated: 4 December 2009

Various data collections that explore the links between sustainable land use and the food we eat have recently been added to the UK Data Archive collection. These result from research carried out in the UK as part of the Rural Economy and Land Use programme (Relu). Salad

Food is fundamental to our existence and plays many important roles in our lives, both physically and culturally. It is taken as a given that there is such a thing as a healthy diet, but more and more people are overweight or obese. Key questions include:

  • Where does the land that our food is grown on, and which we view as a national asset, fit in?
  • Can the way we use the land to produce food promote a ‘good’ diet and make us healthier?
  • How do our actions as consumers affect the health of the environment?
These data collections are all interdisciplinary, as each project studies food topics from a societal and environmental point of view.

Examples of Relu data collections include:

SN 6159 Eating Biodiversity: An Investigation of the Links between Quality Food Production and Biodiversity Protection, 2005-2007
Can grazing-land biodiversity add value to the production of meat and cheese and therefore benefit rural economies or are farming and the protection of natural habitats mutually exclusive? Explore the interview, taster panel, focus group, field survey and sample analyses data that underpin these questions.

SN 6171 Warm water Fish Production as a Niche Production and Market Diversification Strategy for Organic Arable Farmers, 2005-2007
Fish is promoted as a healthy food, but wild fish stocks are dwindling and conventional fish farming in the UK is criticised on environmental and welfare grounds. Can small-scale farming of the tropical fish tilapia offer an alternative as a locally and sustainably produced fresh fish and a diversification opportunity for UK farmers? Explore the data on marketing opportunities, consumer attitudes and farmer motivation for farmed tilapia in the UK.

SN 6172 Implications of a Nutrition-Driven Food Policy for the Countryside, 2005-2008
Healthy eating is the mantra of the moment. How could we enhance the nutritional qualities of the food we eat, and what would the effect be on the countryside? Does the type of pasture cattle graze on affect the fats in their meat? Does growing soft fruit and salad crops under new ultraviolet transparent film enhance the levels of antioxidants that can reduce cancer? What might the consumer demand be for such products? Explore the qualitative and quantitative data investigating these issues.

SN 6295 Managing Food Chain Risks, 2006-2007
During crises such as BSE, E. coli and foot and mouth disease there is often a narrow, technical response to the problem. This project incorporates stakeholders’ views and values into the scientific modelling of food chain risks, focusing on three contrasting case studies: pesticide residues in fruit crops, campylobacter in chickens and a mock crisis scenario. Producers, non-governmental organisations, regulators, risk managers and members of the public have been involved in defining the problem, discussing their understanding of risk and suggesting how it might be communicated most effectively.