Unpacking the Food System: Impacts of Soy in the Merseyside Food System

This research will produce the first large scale survey on consumer attitudes towards soy and how knowledge of soy food systems impact consumer choices, ultimately demonstrating what messages can help develop a bottom-up demand for environmentally and socially sustainable soy production.

Soy is one of the world’s most economically significant but environmentally sensitive agricultural commodities and is heavily linked to deforestation and habitat loss, especially in Latin America (responsible for around 60% of global production).

Large-scale online surveys will measure consumer awareness and perceptions of soy-fed animals, and determine whether knowledge of the impact of soy production influences attitudes and potential purchasing decisions. The survey will develop and validate a ‘Soy Attitudes’ questionnaire which can be applied to ongoing experimental research at Liverpool, and also be adapted for the assessment of other high risk commodities in the wider field.

The study will also explore which information about the social/environmental impacts of soy resound most with consumers, allowing identification of candidate consumer-orientated messages that will encourage demand for sustainable soy. It will explore whether sustainability labelling for soya-fed meat products impacts upon consumer behaviour - specifically consumer choice and willingness-to-pay. These data will provide invaluable consumer information for stakeholders to make informed decisions about soya use.

This work will inform strategies for retailers to increase consumer awareness of soy in processed foods/meat, ultimately giving impetus to a bottom-up demand for socially and environmentally sustainable products.

This project will also build on work from colleagues at the University of York partners in mapping the soy food system, to create the first interdisciplinary food system analysis of soy. This unique contribution will lead to two co-authored publications plus a policy briefing for Liverpool City Council and its Enterprise Partnerships along with Mersey Ports (Merseyside being one of the key UK entry points for soy).

For more information contact Dr Paul Christiansen.

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