Sustainable Lives: Preliminary findings from the first project stage

Frühstück Essen

Since the “Food project” has now brought its first stage to a close, it is time to present some preliminary findings.

With the funding provided by KNU, we have conducted a thorough interdisciplinary literature review and several pilot studies: a representative survey in sociology, experiments in economics, a qualitative and an automated content analysis in journalism studies, an analysis of social media content in communication studies, a metaphor analysis in linguistics, and narrative interviews in geography.

The data gathered is still being analysed in most sub-projects, and publications are being finalized. As a broad summary, we can already say that the project successfully analysed drivers of sustainable food choices from different perspectives.

In terms of actual consumption patterns, the share of vegetarians and vegans is small in Hamburg (8 %), but a substantial share of inhabitants has a reduced meat consumption (18 %) (see more on these results here and here).
Important factors that influence sustainable food choices were found to be spatial access, sociodemographic factors – education and gender were associated with a reduced meat consumption – as well as the motivation to care for one’s own health, the protection of the environment and animal welfare.

This complexity is reflected in the discourses about food analysed in the project. In the elite media, the dominant frame regarding food choices centres on body and health, while sustainable living is less salient. Yet, the latter is visible in media debates in some countries, such as the quality press in Germany. These findings align with the metaphor analysis that shows a focus on bodies as machines that need to be ‘fuelled’ with food, and that the term ‘sustainable’ does not directly collocate with ‘nutrition’. In social media discourses, food choices are connected to traditions and holidays, but also to sustainability issues, the price-performance ratio and other environmental problems such as plastic waste.

The project team will continue to work with the data and on the topic in general in the second stage of the project, which we will soon announce in more detail.