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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.


Abstract and Figures

The present study aims at describing the state-of-play of short food supply chains (SFSC) in the EU understood as being the chains in which foods involved are identified by, and traceable to a farmer and for which the number of intermediaries between farmer and consumer should be minimal or ideally nil. Several types of SFSCs can be identified, for example CSAs (Community-Supported Agriculture), on-farm sales, off-farm schemes (farmers markets, delivery schemes), collective sales in particular towards public institutions, being mostly local / proximity sales and in some cases distance sales. Such type of food chain has specific social impacts, economic impacts at regional and farm level as well as environmental impacts translating themselves into a clear interest of consumers. SFSCs are present throughout the EU, although there are some differences in the different MS in terms of dominating types of SFSCs. In general, they are dominantly small or microenterprises, composed of small-scale producers, often coupled to organic farming practices. Social values (quality products to consumers and direct contact with the producer) are the values usually highlighted by SFSCs before environmental or economic values. In terms of policy tools, there are pros and cons in developing a specific EU labelling scheme which could bring more recognition, clarity, protection and value added to SFSCs, while potential costs might be an obstacle. Anyhow, a possible labelling scheme should take into account the current different stages and situations of development of SFSCs in the EU and be flexible enough accommodate these differences. Other policy tools, in particular training and knowledge exchange in marketing and communication, are considered important and should continue to be funded by Rural Development programmes, as well as possibly other EU funds in view of the positive social and not specifically rural impacts.
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food
Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their
Socio-Economic Characteristics.
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Report EUR 25911 EN
Authors: Moya Kneafsey, Laura Venn, Ulrich Schmutz,
Bálint Balázs, Liz Trenchard, Trish Eyden-Wood, Elizabeth
Bos, Gemma Sutton, Matthew Blackett
Editors: Fabien Santini, Sergio Gomez y Paloma
JRC 80420 ONLINE.indd 1 24/05/13 16:38
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JRC 80420
EUR 25911 EN
ISBN 978-92-79-29288- 0 (pdf)
ISSN 1831-9424 (online)
Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union, 2013
© European Union, 2013
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EUR 25911 - Joint Research Centre - Institute for Prospective Technological Studies
Title: Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
Author(s): Moya Kneafsey, Laura Venn, Ulrich Schmutz, Bálint Balázs, Liz Trenchard, Trish Eyden-Wood , Elizabeth Bos,
Gemma Sutton, Matthew Blackett
Editor(s): Fabien Santini, Sergio Gómez y Paloma
Luxembourg: Publications Office of the European Union
2013 - 154 pp. - 21.0 x 29.7 cm
EUR - Scientific and Technical Research series - ISSN1831-9424 (online)
ISBN 978-92-79-29288-0 (pdf)
The present study aims at describing the state-of-play of short food supply chains (SFSC) in the EU understood as being
the chains in which foods involved are identified by, and traceable to a farmer and for which the number of intermediaries
between farmer and consumer should be minimal or ideally nil. Several types of SFSCs can be identified, for example CSAs
(Community-Supported Agriculture), on-farm sales, off-farm schemes (farmers markets, delivery schemes), collective sales
in particular towards public institutions, being mostly local / proximity sales and in some cases distance sales. Such type
of food chain has specific social impacts, economic impacts at regional and farm level as well as environmental impacts
translating themselves into a clear interest of consumers. SFSCs are present throughout the EU, although there are some
differences in the different MS in terms of dominating types of SFSCs. In general, they are dominantly small or micro-
enterprises, composed of small-scale producers, often coupled to organic farming practices. Social values (quality products
to consumers and direct contact with the producer) are the values usually highlighted by SFSCs before environmental or
economic values. In terms of policy tools, there are pros and cons in developing a specific EU labelling scheme which could
bring more recognition, clarity, protection and value added to SFSCs, while potential costs might be an obstacle. Anyhow, a
possible labelling scheme should take into account the current different stages and situations of development of SFSCs in
the EU and be flexible enough accommodate these differences. Other policy tools, in particular training and knowledge
exchange in marketing and communication, are considered important and should continue to be funded by Rural Development
programmes, as well as possibly other EU funds in view of the positive social and not specifically rural impacts.
JRC 80420 ONLINE.indd 2 24/05/13 16:38
Short Food Supply Chains
and Local Food Systems
in the EU. A State of Play
of their Socio-Economic
Moya Kneafsey1, Laura Venn2, Ulrich Schmutz1, Bálint
Balázs3, Liz Trenchard1, Trish Eyden-Wood1, Elizabeth
Bos4, Gemma Sutton1, Matthew Blackett5
Fabien Santini6, Sergio Gomez y Paloma6
1 Centre for Agroecology and Food Security, Coventry University, United Kingdom
2 Innovative Futures Research, Warwick, United Kingdom
3 Social Science Research Group, Institute of Environmental and Landscape
Management, Department of Environmental Economics, St István University,
4 Centre for Sustainable Regeneration, Coventry University, United Kingdom
5 Department of Geography, Environment and Disaster Management, Coventry
University, United Kingdom
6 European Commission, Joint Research Centre, Institute for Prospective
Technological Studies, Sevilla, Spain
Joint Research Centre
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 1 14/05/13 17:38
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 2 14/05/13 17:38
The authors and editors would like to thank the following
people who participated in the research and gave generously
of their time and expertise:
Nathalie Bertone, Yuna Chiffoleau, Carine Dieudonné, Marjorie
Esprit, Giulio Cardini, Carolina Gario, Laurent Gomez, Sylvère
Gonzalvez, Nabil Hasnaoui Amri, Anton and Margit Heritzer,
Sally Jackson, Christian Jochum, Susanne Linecker, Martina
Ortner, Juliette Peres, Bruno and Menou Planiol, Laurent
Senet, Karin Steinkellner, Laure Tezenas du Montcel
The following colleagues at Coventry University provided
research and administrative support to the project: Sian
Conway, Julie Horbury and Donna Udall
Special thanks go to placement students at Coventry
University who provided additional research assistance:
Julien Buffard, Blanca Casares and Jordon Lazell
The authors and editors would also like to thank Branka
Tome, Michael Erhart and Jean-Michel Courades in DG
Agriculture and Rural Development of the European
Commission for their advice and support, as well as Maria
Espinosa in the European Commission’s JRC-IPTS, Seville, for
valuable comments to previous versions of this report, and
Carla Martins in Eurostat for providing relevant data.
Pictures credits are with authors if not stated otherwise.
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Dr Moya Kneafsey – Principal Investigator
Moya is a Reader in Human Geography at Coventry University.
Since 1997 her research has examined the ‘reconnection’ of
consumers, producers and food through ‘alternative’, local
and short food supply chains. Her focus has been on quality
products, rural development and community participation,
but more recently she has begun research on planning
and innovation for sustainable urban agriculture. She leads
the working group on ‘Food and Communities’ at Coventry
University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security.
Dr Laura Venn – Senior Researcher
Laura has over 13 years research experience in the public
and private sectors. She specialises in social policy research
with a particular interest in food-related topics; namely
short food supply chains, food governance and sustainable
consumption. In 2011 Laura co-founded Innovative Futures
Research, an independent social and economic research
agency. She is an associate member of Coventry University’s
Centre for Agroecology and Food Security.
Dr Ulrich Schmutz – Senior Researcher
Ulrich has 15 years experience in research and practical work
with organic farms of any size and complexity. A specialist
in environmental, ecological and rural economics, he has
expertise in modelling farm economics and resource use
data and managing large data sets. He has worked in many
countries, is an accredited organic farm inspector in the UK
and EU and a member of the Centre for Agroecology and
Food Security at Coventry University. Ulrich is based at the
research charity Garden organic, Ryton Gardens Coventry.
Mr Bálint Balázs – Senior Researcher
Bálint Balázs is a research fellow and lecturer of
Environmental Sociology at the Environmental Social Science
Research Group, Institute of Environmental and Landscape
Management, Department of Environmental Economics, St
István University, Hungary. He has international research
experience in EU-projects on the field of human-nature
interactions, sustainable agri-food systems and policy
Dr Liz Trenchard – Senior Researcher
Liz has inter-disciplinary research expertise in environmental
science and outdoor pedagogy. She has experience of working
with overseas partners on sustainable agriculture projects,
including ongoing research to develop a network for capacity
building in organic agriculture. She is a member of Coventry
University’s Centre for Agroecology and Food Security, and
leads the working group on Fair Routes to Market.
Dr Matthew Blackett - Senior Researcher
Matthew is a Senior Lecturer in Physical Geography and
Natural Hazards at Coventry University. His research interests
commenced with the monitoring, mapping and modeling of
volcanic and seismic phenomena and he continues to pursue
research in this field. Matthew has more recently started
work on monitoring and mapping the physical environment
to examine social phenomena, including agricultural land
use change in Africa.
Ms Gemma Sutton – Research Support Officer
Gemma has extensive research experience in agriculture and
horticulture and has delivered practical training to children
and adults. Her research interests include the benefits of
gardening for human health and the environment.
Mrs Trish Eyden-Wood – Research Support Officer,
Centre for Agroecology and Food Security
Trish has supported the research activities on a wide range
of projects including; Prosopis as a famine food and the
effects of veterinary medicines on health. Trish’s research
interests lie within the environment and human health with
a keen focus on nutrition from agriculture.
Mrs Elizabeth Bos – Research Assistant, Centre for
Sustainable Regeneration, Coventry University
Elizabeth is involved in a variety of research activities in
the field of food and communities. She is interested in
individual and community participation in food networks and
is exploring this in England and the Netherlands through her
PhD studies.
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
Mr Fabien Santini – Scientific Officer
Fabien joined the European Commission’s (EC) Joint Research
Centre (JRC-IPTS, Seville) aer more than 10 years serving
as policy officer in DG Agriculture and Rural Development
in units dealing with market issues and quality policy. He
holds a degree of Agricultural Economics (Agro Paris Tech)
and a degree of Political Sciences (IEP Paris). Within IPTS, he
mainly focuses on rural development issues and agricultural
products quality policy impact assessment.
Dr Sergio Gomez y Paloma – Action Leader
Sergio coordinates the EC-JRC-IPTS Action SUSTAG-RD
(Sustainable Agriculture & Rural Development). He is a
graduate in Agricultural Sciences (Napoli University), and
has obtained a Master of Agribusiness (Milano, Catholic
University), a Master in Agricultural Development (Agro
Paris Tech), and a PhD in Agricultural Economics (Bologna
University). In 1990–96 he was a lecturer at Roskilde
Universitetscenter, Department of Economics and Planning,
where he was co-director of the European Master ESST
(Society, Science and Technology). He has been Advisor to
the EU Economic and Social Committee, Brussels (1992–95).
He is 2011–13 member of the editorial board of the Applied
Economics Perspective and Policy Journal.
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 6 14/05/13 17:38
Acknowledgements 3
Biographies 5
List of figures 9
List of maps 10
List of tables 10
List of Boxes 11
List of Abbreviations 11
1 Executive summary 13
2 Introduction: background, aims, objectives and approach 19
2.1 Background 19
2.2 Research aims and objectives 20
3 Literature and Evidence Review 21
3.1 Introduction 21
3.2 Description of LFS and SFSCs in the EU 23
3.2.1 Defining LFS and SFSCs 23
3.3 Overview of types of SFSCs currently operating across the EU
3.4 The Socio-economic and Environmental Impacts of LFS/SFSCs 27
3.4.1 Social impacts of LFS/SFSCs 28
3.4.2 Economic Benefits of LFS/SFSCs 29
3.4.3 Environmental Impacts 32
3.5 Consumer attitudes to LFS / SFSCs 35
3.5.1 Consumer interest in local foods 35
3.5.2 Consumer attitudes towards labels 37
3.6 Institutional support for LFS/SFSCs 37
3.7 Summary and Conclusions 39
4 Characteristics of Short Food Supply Chains in the EU 41
4.1 Introduction 41
4.1.1 Structure of the database 41
4.1.2 Populating the database 42
4.2 Overview of the Database 44
4.2.1 Distribution and Characteristics of SFSCs in the Database 44
4.2.2 Longevity of SFSCs in the Database 46
4.2.3 Produce marketed through SFSCs in the database 47
4.2.4 Use of Labels and Logos 48
4.3 Evidence about the impact of SFSCs in the database 53
4.3.1 Farm level economic impact: turnover, profit 53
4.3.2 Financial support 53
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4.3.3 Regional level economic impact 54
4.4 Other aspects 57
4.4.1 Consumer awareness: number of consumers 57
4.4.2 Certification and Production Methods 58
4.4.3 Aims of schemes 58
4.5 Comparative Analysis - meta-region Analysis 60
4.5.1 Northern European analysis 60
4.5.2 Southern region analysis 65
4.5.3 New Member States analysis 70
4.5.4 Meta analysis concluding elements 74
5 Case studies of Short Food Supply Chains 75
5.1 Introduction 75
5.2 AUSTRIA 76
5.2.1 Austrian national context 76
5.2.2 A local case study in Carinthia (Kärnten) 81
5.2.3 Consumer Attitudes towards SFSCs in Carinthia (Austria) 83
5.2.4 Conclusions from the Austrian case study 85
5.1 FRANCE 86
5.1.1 French national context: ‘circuits courts’ 86
5.1.2 A regional context: Languedoc-Roussillon 89
5.3.3 A concrete case study in Languedoc - Terroir Direct 91
5.3.4 Consumer Attitudes 95
5.3.5 Conclusions for the France Case Study 98
5.4 HUNGARY 98
5.4.1 Hungarian national context 98
5.4.2 Local context – a case study in Szekszárd and the Tolna County 100
5.4.3 Consumer Attitudes 103
5.2.5 Conclusions from the Hungary Case Study 106
5.3 Conclusions from the case studies 106
6 Overall conclusions 109
6.1 The Classification and Characteristics of SFSCs 109
6.1.1 Classification 109
6.1.2 Characteristics 110
6.2 The Socio-Economic Importance of SFSCs in the EU: Quality and Fairness are key themes 110
6.2.1 Social Impacts of SFSCs 110
6.2.2 Economic impacts of SFSCs 111
6.2.3 Consumer Interest in SFSCs 111
6.3 SWOT analysis of short food supply chains 112
Recommendations on possible policy tools to support SFSCs, with attention to small-scale producers in particular 114
6.4.1 Can a labelling scheme help? 114
6.4.2 Other policy tools? 115
6.5 Proposals for further research in the area 116
7 References 117
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List of figures
Figure 1: Five work tasks derived to satisfy the three overarching objectives of the research 21
Figure 2: quality conventions in SFSCs 27
Figure 3: Scheme coverage 75
Figure 4: Number of scheme by production method 77
Figure 5: Number of scheme by Capital Assets Framework 79
Figure 6: Overview of the location of sales for the Northern region countries’ scheme 85
Figure 7: The overall production methods identified for the Northern region 86
Figure 8: The assessment of the capital assets framework for the Northern region 87
Figure 9: Overview of the location of sales for the Southern countries schemes 91
Figure 10: An overview of the production methods identified for the Southern region 92
Figure 11: The assessment of the capital assets framework for the Southern region 93
Figure 12: Overview of the location of sales for the New Member States region 97
Figure 13: The overall production methods identified for the New Member States 98
Figure 14: The assessment of the capital assets framework for the New Member States 99
Figure 15: Logo of Gutes vom Bauernhof 104
Figure 16: Awareness of the Gutes vom Bauernhof logo (supported) in June 2010 and May 2011 104
Figure 17: Product placement in a supermarket chain (Bauernecken) 107
Figure 18: Product placement in a farmers’ run shop in town (Baurenladen) 108
Figure 19: Heritzer farm buildings and fruit orchard 111
Figure 20: Consumer focus group at Landwirtschaskammer Klagenfurt 113
Figure 21: Geographical distribution of SFSCs (% of holdings involved in SFSCs) 117
Figure 22: Production regions focus on long chains (fruits / eggs and poultry) 117
Figure 23: Labelling Schemes - La Marque Marchés des Producteurs de Pays and Bienvenue á la Ferme 119
Figure 24: Formula to Meet BF Criteria 120
Figure 25: a typical landscape of Cévennes 124
Figure 26: The main distribution centre at Terroir Direct 125
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Figure 27: the Planiols Farm 127
Figure 28: Map of Szekszárd and its microregion 138
Figure 29: Guidebook with local farmers’ profile 140
Figure 30: Local food shop: meeting place for consumers and producers 140
Figure 31: Participatory certification scheme logo 141
List of maps
Map 1: Northern region countries in the EU 81
Map 2: Southern region countries in the EU 88
Map 3: New Member States countries in the EU 94
Map 4: Map of Carinthia and its mountains 110
List of tables
Table 1: Literature in the review organised by year 23
Table 2: Geographical spread of case studies within literature by year 24
Table 3: EU funded research on LFS/SFSCs 28
Table 4: Overview of types of LFS/SFSC in the EU 30
Table 5: Social impacts of LFS/SFSCs 32
Table 6: Potential qualitative indicators of environmental benefits 43
Table 7: Potential Indicators, how do selected SFSC compare? 44
Table 8: Four key impacts and 11 indicators that make up the comparative analysis 53
Table 9: Data availability in relation to comparative assessment indicators across the database and across regions 54
Table 10: Number of schemes per country included in the database 57
Table 11: No. of schemes by classification 59
Table 12: Number of schemes by age by length of operation 61
Table 13: Location of schemes according to age 61
Table 14: No. of schemes selling by type of produce 62
Table 15: Details on several SFSC including their specific label / logo 64
Table 16: Identification of the schemes and the numbers of employees 72
Table 17: Number of Producers 73
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Table 18: Overview of the schemes with information on the size of the farmed area 73
Table 19: Overview of actual customer numbers 76
Table 20: Schemes by Capital Assets 79
Table 21: Number of schemes per country included in the Northern region 81
Table 22: Number of schemes by sub-classification in the Northern region 83
Table 23: Number of producers within schemes in the Northern region 85
Table 24: Number of schemes per country included in the Southern region 88
Table 25: Number of schemes by sub-classification in the Southern region 90
Table 26: Number of producers within schemes in the Southern region 91
Table 27: Regional summary table for the New Member State region 94
Table 28: Number of schemes by sub-classification in the New Member States 95
Table 29: Number of producers within schemes in the New Member States region 96
Table 30: Household spending 103
Table 31: Sample Profile 113
Table 32: Type of SFSCs in Languedoc (respondent numbers) 130
Table 33: Type of SFSCs in Hungary (respondent numbers) 144
Table 34: Summary description of case studies 148
List of Boxes
Box 1 What does ‘local’ mean: examples from the UK 25
Box 2: Five Capital Assets 31
Box 3: EU differences in consumer attitudes 46
Box 4: Gutes vom Bauernhof (GvB) Entry control scoring system – An example 105
Box 5: Puech Séranne (Laurent Senet) in St-Jean-de-Buèges (Hérault) 126
Box 6: Bruno Planiol in Lecques (Gard) 127
List of Abbreviations
AAFN Alternative Agri-Food Network
ABA Agriculture Biologique
AFN Alternative Food Networks
AMA Agrarmarkt Austria
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AMAP Association pour le Maintien d ‘une Agriculture Paysanne
APCA Assemblée Permanente des Chambres d’Agriculture
B&B Bed and Breakfast
BF Bienvenue à la Ferme
CAFS Centre for Agroecology and Food Security at Coventry University
CAHM Communauté d’Agglomération Hérault Méditerranée
CAP Common Agricultural Policy
CIVAM Centres d’Initiatives pour Valoriser l’Agriculture et le Milieu rural
COFAMI Encouraging COllective FArmers Marketing Initiatives
CPRE Campaign to Protect Rural England
CRALIM Comité Régional de l’Alimentation
CSA Community Supported Agriculture
EBITDA Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization
ENRD European Network for Rural Development
EP European Parliament
EU European Union
FAAN Facilitating Alternative Agro-food Networks
FARMA Farmers Retail and Markets Association
FEADER Fonds européen agricole pour le développement rural
FLAIR Food and Local Agriculture Information Resources
FOODMETRES Food Planning and Innovation for Sustainable Metropolitan Regions
GAS Gruppo di Acquisto Solidale
GDP Gross Domestic Product
GHG Greenhouse Gas
GVB Gutes Vom Bauernhof
HNRN Hungarian Rural Development Network
HUF Hungarian Forint
IAASTD International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development
IFOAM International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements
IFR Innovative Futures Research
INRA Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique
IPTS Institute for Prospective Technological Studies
LCA Life Cycle Analysis
LEADER Liaison Entre Actions de Développement de l’Economie Rurale
LFS Local Food System
MPP Marchés des Producteurs de Pays
MS Member States
NGO Non-Governmental Organisations
NMS New Member States
PDO Protection of Designated Origin
PGI Protected Geographical Indications
PGS Participatory Guaranteed Scheme
SALT Systèmes Alimentaires Territorialisés
SFSC Short Food Supply Chain
SROI Social Return on Investment
TD Terroir Direct
UK United Kingdom
USA United States of America
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 12 14/05/13 17:38
Executive summary
Background and methodology
In recent years, as global food chains have expanded, a large
array of terms has been used in academic, policy, technical
or civic debates to illustrate innovative re-organisations of
food supply chains aiming at re-connecting producers and
consumers and re-localising agricultural and food production.
These include short supply chains, alternative food networks,
local farming systems and direct sales.
On the policy side, several EU Member States have developed
legal frameworks and incentives to support such types of
food chains. France, for example, defined precisely the notion
of a short chain (‘circuit court’) in the framework of the 2009
Action Plan to develop them and Italy has also established
legislative decrees for the regulation of Farmers Markets. At
EU level, this kind of initiative benefits from Rural Development
funding, and the European Commission proposed, within the
‘CAP towards 2020’ proposals1, that short supply chains
may be subject to thematic sub-programmes within Rural
Development programmes. The recent ‘Agricultural Product
Quality Schemes Regulation’ (Regulation (EU) No 1151/92)
adopted by the European Parliament and the Council
includes a request to the European Commission to elaborate
a report on a possible new ‘local farming and direct sales
labelling scheme to assist producers in marketing their
produce locally’ (Article 55), focusing on the ‘ability of the
farmer to add value to his produce’ and, among others ‘the
possibilities of reducing carbon emissions and waste through
short production and distribution chains’, and, if necessary,
‘accompanied by appropriate legislative proposals’.
In this policy context, the present study aims at describing
the state-of-play of short food supply chains and local food
systems (throughout the report ‘SFSC’ and ‘LFS’ respectively)
in the European Union and reflecting on the policy tools to
address them, in particular on the introduction of a common
EU labelling scheme for farm produce. The methodology
taking into account the available means consisted of (i) a
thorough review of recent academic literature in economics,
sociology, geography and other relevant related disciplines
as well as technical and grey literature; (ii) a compilation
of available data on 84 illustrative cases of different types
of SFSCs throughout Europe; (iii) a more in depth study of
1 See COM(2011) 627 final/2 (article 8, page 34)
three case studies and their national / regional contexts
in Austria, France and Hungary. Lessons learnt from these
three exercises allow elaborating some concluding remarks
on the state-of-play of SFSCs in the EU and on possible
policy options to support their development.
Defining and categorising SFSCs
Much recent research has attempted to define what type
of supply chain should be at the heart of the reflection on
re-localisation and re-connection of agriculture and food
production. Both aspects (localisation of the production
and length of the supply chain in terms of number of
stakeholders involved) have been studied by several EU
funded research programmes such as IMPACT, SUPPLIERS or
FAAN. These, and other studies, have generally defined ‘Local
Food Systems’ as those where the production, processing,
trade and consumption of food occur in a defined reduced
geographical area (depending on the sources and reflections,
of about 20 to 100 km radius). ‘Short Supply Chains’ on
the other hand are where the number of intermediaries
is minimised, the ideal being a direct contact between the
producer and the consumer. Building on seminal papers of
Marsden et al. (2000) and Renting et al. (2003), as well
as on definitions proposed by the French authorities or the
European Commission, the following definition of SFSC has
been adopted in the present report:
“The foods involved are identified by, and traceable to a
farmer. The number of intermediaries between farmer and
consumer should be ‘minimal’ or ideally nil.”
The specific emphasis on the farmer is adopted because
of the above-mentioned policy interest in a potential new
labelling scheme. For the purpose of this study, a focus
on SFSCs rather than LFS has been retained, although the
two concepts obviously overlap, and research on the latter
is clearly relevant and has been studied in the systematic
literature review. The decision to concentrate primarily
on SFSCs primarily reflects the difficulties of defining the
concept of the ‘local’ (discussed fully in Section 3). Our
definition encompasses different types of short supply
chains in terms of number of intermediaries. Most of them,
which can be grouped following Aubry and Chiffoleau (2009)
under a single category of ‘sales in proximity’, are also local
farming systems, in the sense that locally grown or produced
foods are served to local consumers. Community-Supported
1 Executive summary
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
Agriculture (CSA) and similar schemes known under other
names in other Member States (AMAP, etc.) are based on
long term partnership between one or several producers and
their consumers where consumers are associated to a more
or less large extent with the producers’ decisions and labour.
Other types of on-farm schemes are numerous, where
consumers transport themselves to the place of production
to purchase the products of a farmer (farm shops, farm-
based hospitality, roadside sales, pick-your-own schemes,
etc.). Farmers might also sell off-farm their products to
consumers in the neighbouring places of consumption in
farmers’ markets, shops owned by farmers, food festivals
and fairs, farm-based delivery schemes, or through one
single trade intermediary (cooperative shops, specialist
shops, supermarkets, etc.). Lastly, farmers might sell their
products directly to public institutions’ collective catering
such as school or hospital canteens, etc. in the framework
of public procurement. A few of these short chains can also
correspond to non-local sales, in particular direct internet
sales / long distance farm-based delivery schemes.
Further reflection on the basis of our study suggests that
it is possible to differentiate between ‘traditional’ and ‘neo-
traditional’ SFSCs. The former are farm-based, in rural
locations, usually operated on-farm by family businesses
and using traditional and artisan production methods. The
latter consist of more complex collaborative networks, are
oen off-farm (delivery schemes in particular), located in
urban or peri-urban areas and foreground strong social and
ethical values (such as CSAs). They may be more subject to a
non-profit approach. Both models can be equally innovative
and dynamic chains and many individual cases combine
characteristics of both of them in a ‘hybrid’ manner.
SFSCs’ impacts
Research literature has extensively discussed the potential
impacts of SFSCs, although there is a lack of baseline and
longitudinal data. The research draws on a wealth of case
studies, but there are not so many examples of comparative
approaches across geographical context or between types
of short chains, in particular because of the difficulties
of collecting comparable data on micro enterprises and
initiatives throughout Europe.
In terms of social impacts, there is evidence that SFSCs
favour the interaction and connection between farmers and
consumers, thus promoting the development of trust and
social capital. This can lead to the development of a sense
of community and of ‘living-together’ and may even result in
behavioural changes (eating habits with public health effect
e.g. on obesity, general shopping habits with more social and
environmental awareness, etc.). Overall, when farm-based
in rural areas, SFSCs might play an important role in the
vitality and quality of life of rural areas concerned while in
urban areas, SFSCs focus more on promoting inclusive social
change through education on sustainability and ethical
issues. There are however a few examples where SFSCs have
been seen to be associated with social exclusion (excess of
localism, focus on wealthy consumers).
Economically speaking, benefits can be found in rural
development and economic regeneration. There is evidence
that local farming systems and short chains do have a higher
multiplier effect on local economies than long chains, with
impacts also on maintaining local employment, particularly
in rural areas. The synergies with the tourism sectors are also
well acknowledged. At producer and farm level, they seem to
allow a higher share of value added to be retained locally,
although quantitative evidence of such impacts is poorly
documented. In addition, the requirement for higher labour
input with different skills (production, processing, marketing,
promoting) is a difficulty at farm level, particularly for small
scale producers. The small scale of the schemes at stake and
possible higher costs of production as a consequence can
also be a threat for their longevity, which may help to explain
why many schemes turn themselves towards ‘profit sufficers’
or ‘welfare/utility maximizers’ models rather than towards
‘profit maximisers’ ones. Also, there are many examples of
farmers using a mix of SFSCs, or combining them with longer
chains in order to build resilient routes to market and reduce
risks from market volatility.
There is a large and lively debate on the environmental effect
of SFSCs, where intuitively re-localisation of production
might be seen as a driver of drastic GHG emissions
reduction. In fact, studies tend to demonstrate that ‘local’ is
not a sufficient feature to ensure such benefits. Appropriate
logistical arrangements are needed and there is important
potential for improvement in SFSCs to this respect. More
generally, the methods of production and of processing are
important for ensuring less environmental impact; ‘local’ and/
or ‘short’ is not necessarily better, although the importance
of ethical values and the higher uptake of environmentally
sound practices are de facto elements in favour of a positive
impact of SFSCs in the EU.
These elements translate themselves into a clear interest of
consumers, particularly higher income, urban and educated
ones, for products arising from SFSCs. Reasons for this
interest may vary from one place to another, but it is clear
that ethical, social and environmental concerns, in addition
to quality aspects are the key drivers of consumer interest
in this sector. There is some evidence in literature that this
interest gives birth to a certain extent to a willingness to pay
higher prices, with significant price premium (20%) according
certain studies (e.g. Carpio and Isengildina-Massa, 2007).
Descriptive state of play of SFSCs in the EU
From the 84 cases listed in the database compiled, some
general elements can be noted. There is a large variety of
types of SFSCs throughout the EU and nearly each type is
present in every part of the EU. In general, the impression
is that collective schemes supplying public institutions seem
less developed than other types of schemes and CSAs (as
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 14 14/05/13 17:38
Executive summary
well as ‘neo-traditional’ schemes) are less present in New
Member States and Mediterranean areas than in North West
Europe (UK, France, Belgium in particular). The ‘traditional’
on-farm schemes are more represented in Mediterranean
countries and in New Member States, where also off-farm
‘traditional’ types such as farmers’ markets are dominant.
Data on the longevity of the SFSC schemes tends to
show that the number of urban-driven schemes seems to
have developed rapidly in recent years, while more rural
‘traditional’ SFSCs tend to be longer established.
Products mainly traded are, first, fruit and vegetables (mainly
fresh, particularly vegetables in the now well present ‘veg
boxes’), followed by animal products, principally meat, fresh
and prepared, and dairy products as well as beverages. There
is a tendency for schemes to complete the range of products
offered by other producers’ ones (in some instances non
local but produced and traded according to values shared by
the scheme, such as organic, artisan or fairly traded).
Some SFSCs, in particular in the case of off-farm sales,
use private labels and logos to promote their schemes, on
websites, promotional materials and the labelling packaging
of their products. There are nationally-wide (or regional)
labelling schemes in some Member States, concerning
farmers’ markets for example in the UK (FARMA) or France
(MPP) or on-farm sales points (‘Bienvenue à la Ferme’ in
France, or ‘Gutes von Bauernhof’ in Austria).
Information on the economics of the schemes is extremely
scarce, particularly concerning turnover or overhead costs;
however, many schemes operate with membership fees for
producers and/or consumers together with public support
from EU rural development policy and national or regional
extra subsidies. There is more information on the number
of producers involved or the number of employees, allowing
an impression of the size structure of SFSCs: it seems that
there are on one hand large numbers of small schemes (with
less than 10 producers involved and less than 10 employees
and /or volunteer workers), including micro enterprises (one
small scale producer selling direct), and on the other hand
a few large schemes involving many farmers (over 100)
and employees are present particularly in the North West
of Europe.
Most SFSCs sell primarily to local and /or regional markets.
Less than a third of the examples in our study sell at national
level and less than 15% export some products out of their MS.
A majority of the schemes implement full or partial organic
farming practices (although they are not always certified)
and in some instances more stringent farming practices
are employed (e.g. biodynamic practices). However, certified
organic farming is less present in the examples we identified
in the New Member States than in the rest of Europe.
The main objectives claimed by schemes relate to social
values, principally ensuring quality products to consumers
(fresh, tasty) and direct contact between the producer and
the consumer (trust, social capital). Environmental values
come second (sustainable development, environmentally
sound practices, carbon footprint), and economic ones (value
added to farmers, support to the local economy) third in the
promotion messages of SFSC schemes. The arguments are
more diversified in North West Europe than in New Member
States and Mediterranean countries where the ‘quality’
argument seems more dominant.
Three case studies in Austria, France and Hungary
The case studies consisted of a family farm doing direct
sales in Austria, a producer-consumer co-operative running
an internet based local delivery scheme in France, and
a local food shop in Hungary. Whilst there are no doubt
differences between the three cases in terms of local context
and circumstances, some clear lessons can be learned from
this comparative case study approach. Firstly, all three
examples demonstrate the importance of collective and
collaborative action, whether this is amongst producers, or
between producers and consumers, or between producers,
consumers and local institutions. The French and Hungarian
studies in particular reveal the importance of shared
ethical and moral frameworks oriented towards principles
of fairness, environmental sustainability and care for local
cultural resources (as encapsulated in heritage farming
practices and typical products). Secondly, traditional and
artisan skills which have never ‘died out’ form a vital bedrock
in all three cases; without these skills the quality products
which the SFSCs are built around would not exist. The new
local food enterprises are performing a balancing act: they
celebrate and attempt to diffuse this artisan heritage (food
democratization) but they also necessarily commodify the
local tradition to satisfy renewed consumers’ demand. In
terms of the challenges for SFSCs, a problem identified in
France and Hungary is the existence of ‘false’ producers who
take advantage of consumer interest in buying local produce
and sell goods which are not genuinely local. This issue of
fraud is one of the main reasons for respondents to consider
that a European wide labelling scheme would be useful.
However, on the other hand, respondents also emphasized
the importance of trust-based, localised relationship and
these circumvent the need for a labelling scheme which is
really only useful for (distant) consumers who do not know
the producers. In all 3 cases, respondents identified a need
for training for producers in communication and marketing
skills. Producers engaged in SFSCs require multiple skills,
not only in production but also in processing and marketing
and some respondents (in the French and Austrian cases)
sounded a warning note that for the very small family farms,
attempting to combine all the different activities and skills
could result in a heavy workload and potential burnout of
farmers. In all 3 cases, individuals who could be described
as ‘social innovators’ have played a key role. In Hungary and
France, these are individuals educated to higher levels with
professional experience beyond their current places of work.
In the Austrian case the individuals draw on their long family
history of farming.
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
Concluding remarks on policy tools
The report draws conclusions on whether a labelling scheme
can help promote European SFSCs. Synthesising from the
literature review, database and case studies, it is possible to
draw up a number of pros and cons with regard to a possible
labelling scheme.
Globally, arguments in favour of a label are that it may
potentially bring more recognition, clarity, protection and
value added to SFSCs. Arguments against are more centred
on the possible absence of benefits, and the potential costs
which might be incurred.
Labels and /or logos can be used to communicate important
information to consumers. They are of most importance
when consumers are not buying directly and face-to-face
from producers. When consumers buy direct from producers,
a label is less important because the consumer can make a
judgement about the quality of the product on the basis of
their interaction with the producer. A label and/or logo can also
be used to signal that a product has been certified in some
way and this is important to protect products from cheap
imitations. A label and/or a logo at EU level could be useful
to provide a framework and/or a benchmark to stakeholders
in Member States where SFSC are less numerous and/or less
codified than in others. It is useful to compare the features
of well-established labelling schemes such as Bienvenue a
la Ferme (BF) and Gutes Vom Bauernhof (GvB) which share
common features including high consumer recognition; wide
geographical coverage; traceability and external verification;
strict entry criteria.
Whether a European wide labelling scheme for farm
products and direct sales would be effective depends largely
on what is to be covered (and possibly certified). Bearing in
mind what we know about the motives and values of the
producers and consumers involved in constructing SFSCs, it
seems that 2 elements are vitally important: 1) The origin
and quality of the product – does the consumer know exactly
where it came from, how it was made and who made it? 2)
The nature of the supply chain – was the product sold at a
fair price, e.g., for producers, ensuring the highest share of
value added possible is retained at producer level, and for
consumer, guaranteeing affordable price for quality food?
In a context of proliferation of labelling schemes, consumers
might feel even more confusion with an extra layer of
labelling schemes and stop taking notice of them. On the
other hand, our case studies suggest that SFSC oriented
consumers read labels and are interested in having them as
clear as possible. It has to be noted there are already several
national and/or regional labels and logos referring to SFSCs
(BF, GvB, etc.) and a correct articulation between an EU scale
approach and the existing examples might not result in more
labels and/or logos for consumers but on the contrary would
deliver some global clarification on what can be considered
as SFSCs, local sales and farm products in the EU.
Many respondents in our case studies pointed out that
labelling schemes inevitably impose costs on producers
and make their products more expensive. Although there is
some research evidence of consumer ‘willingness to pay’ for
local foods, increasing costs of their produce would not be
a helpful strategy given the existence of cheaper imitations,
so consideration needs to be given to ways of reducing and/
or subsidising the cost, while not impairing the needs for
reliability of the system against fraud and therefore the
trust by consumers and citizens.
Different countries in the EU are at different stages in terms of
developing labelling for SFSCs. Labelling schemes therefore
have to be tailored to fit the conditions in each country,
including the maturity of SFSC development and consumer
behaviour and the existing schemes in place. Therefore, a
definitional framework and guidance within which member
states have flexibility to develop / create their own labelling
schemes could be helpful. Part of the framework could
determine some common requirements for a label and/
or logo, concerned with aspects of quality (production,
processing and marketing stages), traceability and validation
but there should be flexibility in terms of implementation of
the SFSCs. In addition to key requirements defining the scope
of application, it is important to ensure credibility of the
labelling scheme, and so a number of operational questions
would also need to be addressed which were beyond the
scope of this study. For example, which institution(s) would
be charged with managing the labelling scheme, e.g. self-
declaration or certification, controls? Would participation
in the labelling scheme be subsidized through existing EU
CAP policy mechanisms (Rural Development) or others (EU
cohesion or social policy, national and regional funds).
While labelling might help consumers to reduce their
difficulties in finding / spotting SFSCs products available on
markets, on its own it would not address the problem of lack
of availability and access to produce from named farms or
the barriers to small-scale producers seeking to develop
SFSCs, especially in business start-up phase. This instead
requires solutions around logistics, marketing, and public
procurement, and therefore suggests that the regulating
activity should not be restricted to labelling but should
include other policy tools such as financial incentives, training
and exchange of knowledge and skills, the development of
regulatory and administrative frameworks.
The report also considers other policy tools, because labels
are just one possible way of supporting SFSCs but they are
not the single solution to the problems facing small scale
producers. Therefore, the European Commission could also
consider pursuing other strategies to support the sector,
especially when businesses are in the start-up phase. For
example, use could be made of existing facilities such as
the LEADER programme and European Rural Development
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 16 14/05/13 17:38
Executive summary
Network to promote greater training and knowledge
exchange for the producers and consumers involved in SFSCs,
especially in marketing, promotion and communication skills
for farmers. Also, advice in logistics and use of smart media
and contemporary communications technology is required.
In addition, given that many SFSCs describe themselves as
‘organic,’ even if they are not certified as such, EU support
for organic production has an important role to play and
policy initiatives in the organic sector should dovetail with
initiatives to support SFSCs. Finally, given the social benefits
of SFSCs, the possibility of using EU funds beside the CAP
could be explored. A case could be made to use public
money to support SFSCs in order to generate positive social
impacts, including health and well-being dividends which are
generated through access to quality foods, green spaces,
and better sense of community.
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 17 14/05/13 17:38
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Introduction: background, aims, objectives and approach
2.1 Background
Recent years have seen a proliferation of initiatives to
develop local food systems (LFS) and short food supply chains
(SFSC) of many different types such as on-farm direct sales,
farmers markets and shops, delivery schemes and more
formal partnerships between producers and consumers, not
only in the European Union, but throughout the world. Such
initiatives have become of increasing interest to researchers
and policymakers as the global food chain expands and
extends across international boundaries, oen distancing
those for whom the food is destined from the stages of
its creation, and in so doing ‘disconnecting’ producers from
consumers. This disconnection has meant that consumers
know less about where their food comes from, and that
farmers, in particular small-scale ones, have seen the value
added to food captured by large agri-businesses, processors,
retailers and other intermediaries.
Marketing products through SFSC and LFS, combined with
other diversification activities is oen seen as a way to
respond to the wish of farmers to retain a higher share of
added value. And for consumers they can answer the demand
for local products with assured provenance. SFSC and LFS
afford researchers the opportunity to review efforts to ‘re-
connect’ consumers and producers. Many other economic,
social or environmental benefits are also commonly
mentioned concerning SFSC and LFS, such as strengthening
local economies, improving carbon footprint, contributing to
food security at household level, giving access to healthy
diet, sustaining small farms and business, etc. (ENRD, 2012).
Within the context of the Common Agricultural Policy
(CAP), the European Union has already been supporting
and will increasingly support such initiatives. For example,
in the past, several instruments of the Rural Development
policy could potentially be targeted on SFSC and LFS, such
as restructuration and modernisation support, different
measures supporting the development of local markets
(measures on ‘adding value’, ‘quality schemes’, ‘micro-
enterprises’ or ‘off-farm diversification’) and private-public
partnerships in local development through the LEADER
approach. The new proposals for CAP until 2020 place SFSC
as a possible area for thematic sub-programmes within
Rural Development policy. The general focus on innovation
will also allow SFSC and LFS to get further support, as
they represent an important source of innovation in food
chains organisation. The objective is to help secure the
livelihoods of the millions of small farmers in the European
Union, whilst at the same time promoting a competitive,
sustainable agricultural sector. In particular, there has been
great interest in how small scale farmers can address
the growing consumer demand for high quality, traceable
foodstuffs which support local economies and communities.
SFSC and LFS are therefore seen to be at the crossroads of
several CAP objectives.
Surveys have shown that consumer interest in local foods
is high (Eurobarometer, 2011), but that there are barriers to
access in terms of availability. One idea evoked in parallel
to classic CAP financial support tools is for the introduction
of a new European labelling scheme on local farming and
direct sales (see article 55 of the recent Regulation (EU)
No 1151/2012 of the European Parliament (EP) and of the
Council on quality schemes for agricultural products and
foodstuffs); the aim of such a labelling scheme would be
to assist producers in marketing their produce locally by
helping them to add value to their product through a new
labelling scheme (including or not a logo and/or terms)
which would enable consumers to easily identify products by
their farm of origin. The European Commission will have to
present a report on this matter to the EP and the Council in
2014, including on environmental aspects (carbon footprint
and food waste).
Against this background, the Institute for Prospective
Technological Studies, (IPTS) commissioned a research project
entitled “Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems
– a state of play of their socio-economic characteristics” and
appointed a consortium to carry out the research made up
of researchers from the Centre for Agroecology and Food
Security (CAFS) at Coventry University, Innovative Futures
Research (IFR) and Garden Organic (previously the Henry
Doubleday Research Association). The purpose of this
report is to provide a full discussion of the aims, objectives,
approach, results and conclusions of the study.
2 Introduction: background,
aims, objectives and approach
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
2.2 Research aims and
The project had the double aim of describing the different
LFS and SFSC within the EU, as well as to gather evidence
justifying (or not) an EU-level action, in particular concerning
the introduction of an EU labelling scheme for local
products and direct sales. The evidence would consist of
qualitative and quantitative indicators of the socio-economic
importance of the main types of LFS/SFSC within the EU,
including evidence of their impact on the agricultural sector
and rural economies.
In order to achieve this aim, the following objectives were
• to construct a representative / illustrative database of ex-
isting local food schemes in the EU (and illustratively out
of the EU) falling in different categories: e.g. Producer-con-
sumer partnerships, Direct sales by individual producers to
consumers, Collective sales by groups of producers;
• to conduct a comparative assessment of the schemes de-
tailed in the database, in order to identify key characteris-
tics and impacts on different stakeholders, with a particu-
lar focus on small-scale producers;
• to conduct detailed case studies to generate more pre-
cise, quantitative data regarding the impact of local food
schemes for a determined area and/or products. Three de-
tailed case studies were selected reflecting different cat-
egories of SFSC, as well as geographical diversity in the
The objectives were achieved through completion of 5 tasks
as shown in Figure 1.
In each introductory chapter of sections 3, 4 and 5 of the
present report, a concise overview of the methods used to
complete each task or group of tasks is provided. Section 3
refers to the literature review, the main purpose of which is to
review scientific literature and other sources of information
with a particular focus on socio-economic characteristics
and impacts. Section 4 covers tasks 2 and 3 in Figure 1:
an illustrative / representative database of different SFSC /
LFS identified is discussed. Identified schemes are classified
according to different types and a comparative analysis is
carried out as far as possible, concerning farm level and
regional economic impact, consumer impact and other
criteria such as social, ethical or environmental ones. Section
5 presents the three different case studies selected and
studied more in-depth. Section 6 provides some concluding
elements on the extent to which SFSC and LFS contribute
effectively to CAP rural objectives, on possible EU policy tools
and on further needs for research.
Figure 1: Five work tasks derived to satisfy the three overarching objectives of the research
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Literature and Evidence Review
3.1 Introduction
The literature review is a crucial stage within any research
process and in this case, there is a sizeable corpus of relevant
research. It was important to conduct a thorough review
in order to ensure that the data collection and analysis
which followed in later tasks were properly grounded in
a full understanding of research knowledge to date. The
review was also fundamental to the development of the
methodology for the classification and the comparative
analysis of SFSCs (Section 4) and for the development of the
case study approach (Section 5).
A systematic review of existing literature has been conducted
in relation to Local Food Systems and Short Food Supply
Chains, attempting to identify and appraise information from
existing research utilising a consistent and robust approach.
Studies were selected through an initial screening of titles,
abstracts and executive summaries against the inclusion/
exclusion criteria listed below. Documents that did not meet
the inclusion criteria were discounted.
Inclusion criteria
• Peer reviewed research publications.
• Articles which are available electronically
• Non peer-reviewed publications i.e. consultancy reports,
NGO reports.
• Studies which use qualitative and quantitative methods to
evaluate the impacts of LFS/SFSCs.
• Studies which report from a range of geographical loca-
tions, including non-EU countries such as Norway / Swit-
zerland, and developing countries which fit the inclusion
• Studies of LFS / SFSCs which directly involve farmers and
growers (as opposed to ‘grow your own’ initiatives for
which consumers are growing themselves)
• Primarily literature published in English, but including im-
portant papers in other languages if needed, only seminal
papers from the American Literature
• Key papers from late 1990s onwards will be referenced
(reflecting the beginning of the research body on this top-
ic), but the focus will mainly be on papers published within
the last five years in order to reflect current policy trends
and consumer behaviour.
Exclusion criteria
• Studies primarily focusing on schools.
• Studies that fall beyond the focus of this research, i.e. us-
ing LFS/SFSCs as a case study to review health, physical
activity, mental health, individual wellbeing, stress related
topics or similar.
• Examples that do not include a transaction i.e. money or
time/ labour.
• Community and/ or local food initiatives which do not in-
volve farmers / producers e.g. “Grow your own” projects.
Once all reviews and searches had been completed the
bibliographic database was subjected to a process of de-
duplication to remove any duplicate articles. The number
of relevant articles per year reduced again as a result of
review of the full paper. For instance, a number of grey
literature resources which appeared to be initially relevant
on the basis of summaries, were excluded once full copy
was obtained and the information was seen to be of poor
quality. Hence, the number of relevant articles, for example
from 2011, fell from 190 (aer the review of electronic
databases and abstracts) to 76 papers (once full copies had
been obtained). Having followed all of the above stages the
systematic review had identified 380 papers of use to our
research (see Table 1).
3 Literature and Evidence Review
Table 1: Literature in the review organised by year
Year 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 Pre 2007
Number of articles 76 48 70 102 60 24
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
Of the 380 papers in our review, 356 have been published
within the past 5 years and 131 feature empirical case
studies; their geographical spread is shown in Table 2.
There is a large amount of academic research on LFS and
SFSCs, although our review suggests that there are certain
aspects which are still lacking in rigorous, empirical data
regarding the socio-economic and environmental impacts of
LFS / SFSCs, as discussed further in the next section.
Table 2 Geographical spread of case studies within literature by year
2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 TOTAL
Europe 17 7 6 7 6 43
UK 3 2 3 2 3 13
Italy 3 1 1 1 6
Greece 2 1 1 1 4
France 2 1 3
Norway 1 1 1 3
Spain 2 1 3
Germany 1 1 2
Croatia 1 1
Denmark 1 1
Hungary 1 1
Ireland 1 1
Lithuania 1 1
Poland 1 1
Romania 1 1
Sardina 1 1
Sweden 1
North America 15 1 11 0 8 35
USA 11 1 11 8
Canada 4
South America 00020 2
México 2
Oceania 20310 6
Australia 1 2 1
New Zeland 1 1
Africa 10001 2
Kenya 1
South Africa 1
Total 70 16 0 20 30 131
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3.2 Description of LFS and
SFSCs in the EU
3.2.1 Defining LFS and SFSCs
i. Local Food Systems:
A local food system is one in which foods are produced,
processed and retailed within a defined geographical area.
Examples of local food systems are: farmers markets, farm-
gate sales, vegetable box delivery schemes, community
supported agriculture and public procurement schemes
which source food from within a defined geographical radius.
The foods which are exchanged within local food systems
are usually those which are traceable to a particular place
of origin, and have distinctive qualities or characteristics.
They are oen unprocessed or lightly processed foods. There
is as yet no legally agreed definition of local food, nor of
the geographical scale of the ‘local’. The local is always
experienced and understood in relation to larger geographical
scales, such as the regional, national or global. The question
of where the local area ends and another scale begins is
subjective, depending on context (density of populations,
accessibility and rural or urban character for example) and
purpose. For example, supermarkets operating at national
and international scales oen describe a whole region or
even country as a ‘local’ source (CPRE, 2002). Research in
the UK, for instance, has found that people understand what
‘local’ means in different ways – see Box 1.
The complex nature of contemporary food systems, even for
seemingly simple food commodities, also makes it difficult
to define ‘local’ food (refer to section 3.4.3 on environmental
impacts). For example, unless otherwise specified, locally-
bred chickens may well have been raised on feed sourced
from thousands of miles away. For processed products
consisting of a variety of ingredients, the situation is still
more complex. Products may be grown or reared in one
location, moved to another for processing and packaging,
and then returned to the original location for sale. So they
may be considered ‘local’ foods in the sense that they
have been produced and consumed locally, but might have
generated several hundred food miles during the stages in
between. Dishonest traders can take advantage of this to
tap into consumer interest in local foods (Local Government
Regulation 2011).
ii. Short Food Supply Chains:
The definition of short food supply chains developed by
Marsden et al. (2000) is referenced by many subsequent
researchers. They argue that SFSCs have capacity to ‘re-
socialize’ or ‘re-spatialize’ food, thus allowing consumers
to make value-judgements about foods. The foods involved
are defined by the locality or even specific farm where they
are produced. Interestingly, Marsden et al. (2000: 426) make
clear that “it is not the number of times a product is handled
or the distance over which it is ultimately transported which
is necessarily critical, but the fact that the product reaches
the consumer embedded with information.” What they mean
by ‘embedded’ with information is for example printed on
packaging or communicated in person at the point of sale.
This information “enables the consumer to confidently
make connections and associations with the place/space of
production, and potentially the values of the people involved
and the production methods employed (2000: 425, their
emphasis). The differentiation of products in this way, in
theory, allows products to command a premium price, if the
information provided to consumers is considered valuable.
An important principle of SFSCs is that the “more embedded
a product becomes, the scarcer it becomes in the market”
(2000: 425).
Marsden et al. (2000), and later Renting et al. (2003), identify
three main types of SFSC, all of which engender some form
of ‘connection’ between the food consumer and producer.
* Face-to-face: consumer purchases a product direct from
the producer/processor on a face-to-face basis. Authenticity
and trust are mediated through personal interaction. The
Box 1 What does ‘local’ mean: examples from the UK
The Institute for Grocery Distribution (2005) found that the majority of consumers thought that local meant their ‘county’
or 30 miles (50 km) from where they live or purchased the product. The Food Standards Agency (2006) found that 40%
of respondents referred to local as being within 10 miles. The National Farmers Retail and Markets Association (FARMA)
has developed criteria for certification. The two key points distinguishing a farmers’ market from any other type of market
are firstly that farmers, growers or producers from a defined local area are present in person to sell their produce direct
to consumers. Secondly, all products sold should have been grown, reared, caught or processed in some way by the
stallholder. FARMA recognizes that ‘local area’ can be defined in a variety of ways, depending on geographical location and
types of product. As such, local is understood in two ways: firstly, as a defined radius from the market. Thirty miles is seen
as ideal, but the radius can be increased to up to 50 miles for larger cities, coastal or remote regions, with a maximum
of 100 miles recommended. The second understanding of local is in relation to a recognized boundary, such as county,
National Park or other distinct geographical area. The FARMA criteria recognize that exceptions may have to be made for
scarce products. However, preference should be given to the nearest source whenever possible. The FARMA guidelines also
stipulate that primary produce will have been grown or reared on the producer’s land. For livestock and plants this means
grown or finished (having spent at least 50% of its life) on the producer’s land.
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internet presents opportunities for a variant of face-to-face
trading – although more recent research by Canavan et
al. (2007) has to some extent problematised the extent to
which internet trading can replicate the experience of buying
direct from the person who has made the food. Examples
of face-to-face SFSCs are: farmgate sales, Pick-Your-Own,
farm shops, farmers markets, roadside sales.
* Spatial proximity: products are produced and retailed in
the specific region of production, and consumers are made
aware of the ‘local’ nature of the product at the point of
sale. This category overlaps with the ‘face-to-face’ category
and includes the same retail spaces as noted above. In
addition, this category could include specialist retailers (e.g.
delicatessens, bakeries, butchers, grocers) which sell ‘local’
produce and also elements of the hospitality industry which
sell local foods (e.g. restaurants, pubs, hotels and other
accommodation). This category could also include public
sector food provision, such as hospitals, schools, universities,
care homes, prisons and so on which either sell or provide
locally sourced foods. It could also include examples of
supermarkets retailing locally sourced foods a growing
trend certainly in the UK or France, although we are currently
unsure as to the extent of this practice throughout the EU.
* Spatially extended: information about the place and
processes of production is communicated to consumers
who are outside of the region of production itself, and who
may have no personal experience of that region. All types
of retail space are potentially appropriate for this type of
SFSC. The product information is communicated through
product packaging and promotion, branding, and the use
of certification and legislation to protect named products
with distinct geographical origin. The main examples are
PDO (Protection of Designated Origin) or PGI (Protected
Geographical Indications) (see Barham 2003). This legally
enforced system sidesteps the whole problem of defining
‘the local’ itself, by insisting instead that the crucial point
of definition is whether a food product’s characteristics are
attributable wholly or in part to the features of a distinct
and usually relatively small - geographical area. Therefore
what the consumer can rely on is not whether the product
has been produced within a defined radius from the point
of sale (as in a local food system), but that it has been
produced in a distinct area defined by the presence of a
unique combination of soils, topography, climate, and locally
embedded skills and knowledge. Products registered under
such schemes therefore do not have to be retailed locally
they can be exported - and this offers opportunities for
producers to benefit from bigger markets. As noted by
Renting et al. (2003), the transaction costs resulting from
the need for certification, and of course distribution, mean
that spatially extended SFSCs are oen occupied by larger
businesses. Whilst a large number of products now have PDO/
PGI status, the geographical spread of product registration
is uneven (see Parrot et al. 2002) and there are significant
variations in consumer knowledge and understanding of
these schemes across the EU.
Renting et al. (2003: 401) also identify different ‘quality
conventions’ associated with SFSCs. The first type stresses
links with the place of production or producer. The clearest
example of these is regional speciality foods, including PDO/
PGI. A second group stresses bioprocesses and appeals to
consumer concerns about environmental sustainability and
food safety. Renting et al. acknowledge that the distinction
between these may be blurred and that producers actively
construct ‘hybrid’ quality conventions which draw on both
Other definitions state that the number of intermediaries in
SFSCs should be ‘minimal’ (e.g. Ilbery and Maye 2006) or
ideally nil (Progress Consulting Srl 2010). This is in particular
the case in France where there seems to be consensus that
the key criterion refers to the number of intermediaries
between the producer and the consumer and that this
number for short supply chain should be of maximum one
(Maréchal, 2008; Aubry & Chiffoleau, 2009). Indeed, a short
supply chain differs from direct sales as it can cover systems
where the sale to the final consumer is made by a cooperative
or a shop / supermarket. Following these debates, the French
Ministry of agriculture defined SFSC as those systems with
one or fewer intermediaries (ENRD, 2012).
Figure 2: quality conventions in SFSCs
Source: Renting et al. (2003: 401)
Regional or artisanal
characteristics paramount
(link with place of
production or producer)
designation of origin (for example,
protected denomination of origin /
protected geographical indication)
farm or cottage foods
typical, speciality
on-farm processed
fair trade
Ecological or natural
characteristics paramount
(Link whith bioprocesses)
healthy, safe
free range
GMO free
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From the preceding description, it can be seen that the
definition of SFSCs as introduced by Marsden et al. (2000)
and commonly used by others, encompasses LFS, within the
categories of face-to-face and spatially proximate SFSCs.
Most spatially extended short supply chains as defined by
Marsden et al. (2000) would not qualify under the French
definition above (e.g. PDOs, PGIs, etc.). The concept of SFSCs
does not make explicit reference to geographical boundaries
delimiting the system (Progress Consulting Srl, 2010). As
mentioned by Aubry & Chiffoleau (2009), those SFSC can be
identified as ‘proximity’ or ‘local’ when they are limited to a
reduced geographical radius (80 kms in the article mentioned).
The benefit of referring to SFSCs rather than LFS is that it
focuses on the nature of the relationship between producer
and consumer, rather than getting bogged down in attempts
to agree a definition of ‘local’ and for this reason, we used
the concept of SFSC to guide the database construction and
case study selection which are detailed in Sections 4 and 5
of this report. Whilst the review of terminology suggests that
SFSCs is a more precise concept than LFS, it is nevertheless
common to find that campaigning organisations oen frame
their agendas in terms of ‘local’ food systems, and marketing
strategies refer to ‘local food’ because of the normative
values oen associated with the local.
3.3 Overview of types of SFSCs
currently operating across the EU
This element of the review is principally concerned with
illustrative examples of the types of local food systems and
short food supply chains currently operating in the EU and
other comparable territories.
Much of the information about LFS/SFSCs in the EU has been
generated by European Commission Framework research.
The relevant comparative studies of LFS/SFSCs that we have
identified to date are summarized in Table 3:
Table 3: EU funded research on LFS/SFSCs
Project name Date Project description Key outputs
known (4th
Examined impact of rural development policies. Recognized
at the time that there was a lack of official data of sufficient
reach and quality, and their own research across 7 EU
countries was exploratory (Netherlands, Ireland, Germany,
UK, Spain, Italy). Estimated that a total of 1.4 million famers
were involved in direct selling. SFSCs were most developed in
Mediterranean countries and Germany. They estimated that
in Germany, Italy and France, SFSCs had reached the highest
socio-economic impact, adding 7 – 10% to the total NVA
realised in agriculture.
Renting et al. 2003
``Supply chains linking food
SMEs in Europe’s lagging rural regions’. Case studies of supply
chains in Scotland, England, Wales, Ireland, France, Greece,
Finland, Poland.
Ilbery and Maye
2005; 2006
Although it did not focus primarily on SFSCs, it provided some
valuable case studies on regional marketing from 7 different
countries (Netherlands, UK, Switzerland, Italy, Belgium, Latvia,
De Roep and
Wiskerke 2006
Not known
VI Framework
Comparative analysis of the social, economic, cultural
and political factors that limit/enable the formation and
development of collective marketing initiatives in 10 EU
countries (The Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Italy, France,
Austria, Switzerland, Latvia, Hungary, and Czech Republic).
Knickel et al. 2008
Alternative Agro-
food Networks:
Perspectives on
Research Needs.
Austria, UK,
France, Hungary,
Reported that LFS promote social, economic and environmental
benefits. Concluded that LFS offer an opportunity for small
scale quality farming to gain value through processing
products and direct selling. Thus LFS contribute to local
employment through agriculture, processing, and economic
regeneration. Argued that although supermarkets increasingly
promote products as ‘quality’ and ‘even as local,’ LFS depend
on producer-consumer proximity as a different basis for trust.
Karner et al. 2010
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As many observers have noted, there is great diversity of
schemes in operation. For example, Karner et al. (2010: 7), in
their work on Alternative Agri-Food Networks (AAFNs) note
that “[D]iversity in AAFNs occurs within as well as between
countries. For example, in southern European countries
quality is strongly shaped by the context of production,
including culture, tradition, terrain, climate, local knowledge
systems. In northern and western European countries, in
contrast, quality criteria concern environmental sustainability
or animal welfare, with innovative forms of marketing. In
Central and Eastern European countries, traditional peasant
culture survived especially in remote rural areas; quality
criteria emphasize traditional and cultural aspects.” Although
as remarked by van Rijswijk et al. and supported by our
own systematic review, empirical evidence for consumer
awareness of these kinds of distinction is actually quite
Table 4 presents an overview of types of LFS / SFSC grouped
according to the categorisations identified for the purpose
of the present report. It excludes the separate category of
‘face to face’ sales identified by Marsden et al., and groups
these instead within ‘sales in proximity’. It also specifies that
a named farmer has to be identifiable in the exchange.
Table 4: Overview of types of LFS/SFSC in the EU
SFSC Sub-classification
Sales in proximity.
These may be achieved by farmers acting
individually or collectively, but produce has
to be traceable back to a named farmer.
CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) (or equivalent : AMAP, GAS, etc.)
- have variations according to different regions and countries, but
follow same essential principles whereby subscribers receive a share
of the harvest in return for money and labour.
On Farm Sales:
- Farm shops
- Farm based hospitality (e.g. table d’hôte, B&B)
- Roadside sales
- Pick-Your-Own
Off Farm Sales – commercial sector:
- Farmers’ markets and other markets
- Farmer owned retail outlet
- Food Festivals / tourism events
- Sales directly to consumer co-operatives / buying groups
- Sales to retailers who source from local farmers and who make clear
the identity of the farmers.
- Sales to HoCaRe* as long as the identity of the farmer is made clear
to end consumers.
Off Farm Sales – catering sector:
- Sales to hospitals, schools etc. The catering sector institution in this
case is understood as the ‘consumer.’
Farm Direct Deliveries:
- Delivery schemes (e.g. veg box)
Sales at a distance
These may be achieved by farmers acting
individually or collectively, but produce has
to be traceable back to a named farmer.
Farm Direct Deliveries:
- Delivery schemes
- Internet sales
- Speciality retailers
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3.4 The Socio-economic and
Environmental Impacts of LFS/
LFS and SFSCs are commonly regarded as delivering social,
environmental and economic benefits. So for instance, the
UK’s Soil Association (2001), links local or regional ‘control’
of physical and economic activity with the ability to deliver
a range of benefits. As such, their definition of a ‘sustainable
local food economy’ is:
“A system of producing, processing and trading, primarily
of sustainable and organic forms of food production, where
the physical and economic activity is largely contained and
controlled within the locality or region where it was produced,
which delivers health, economic, environmental and social
benefits to the communities in those areas.”
In this definition, the local is not attributed with a specific
spatial scale, but the key point is that the control of economic
activity is retained locally, and that a range of benefits are
delivered. Local food systems are also oen associated with
co-operative, fair and ethical behaviour. For example, Slow
Food International, whilst not campaigning solely for LFS,
calls for fair pay for small-scale producers, and prioritizes
the preservation of local identities and associated ecological,
cultural and knowledge resources (http://www.slowfood.
com). The ‘local’ is oen understood in terms of opposition
to the ‘global’, as for example in campaigns to ‘resist’ the
globalization of food systems by preserving local food
practices. Such resistance, it is claimed, will help to ‘defend’
local economies, communities, knowledge, traditions and
environmental resources (see for example Hines 2000;
Pretty 2001; Hendrickson and Heffernan 2002).
Clearly, this type of discourse encapsulates critical
perspectives on power in the food system and also taps
into broader critiques of global capitalism and the tendency
for power to be concentrated into corporate hands at the
expense of local communities. In these critical discourses,
‘the local’ is endowed with a particular set of values, such
as principles of endogenous development, ethical trade,
fair treatment of workers, social inclusion, environmental
sustainability. In counterpoint to this, influential papers by
Du Puis and Goodman (2005) and Born and Purcell (2006)
have cautioned against assuming that LFS are inherently
more inclusive, ethical or environmentally sustainable simply
because of their scale; they argue that scale itself does not
have intrinsic qualities but is socially constructed and the
ethical and environmental dimensions of any food system
are not always attributable to the scale at which it operates.
One of the few studies we have found that attempts to
develop indicators of the socio-economic and environmental
indicators of local food systems is that introduced by
Foundation for Local Food Initiatives (2003), and also used
by Dowler et al. (2004) and most recently by Saltmarsh et al.
(2011) for the Soil Association. As illustrated in Box 2 it uses
the capital assets framework drawn from the Sustainable
Livelihoods Approach to provide qualitative and quantitative
assessment of the impacts of LFS across five different
Notwithstanding the example above, our overall impression
on the basis of our systematic review is that the existence
of reliable qualitative and quantitative indicators on the
impacts of LFS/SFSCs is somewhat patchy, mainly because of
a lack of longitudinal studies which establish baseline data.
As such, our review is selective and draws only on studies
which we consider to be supported by rigorous research and
conceptual development.
Box 2: Five Capital Assets
Foundation for Local Food Initiatives (2003) presented the impact of the local food sector on sustainable development
utilising the five capital assets framework:
Human capital: generating greater employment opportunities at local level, encouraging skills transfer and training
Financial capital: supporting local services and suppliers and increased retention of money within the local economy
Physical capital: supporting local shops and markets
Social capital: improving diet and health through increased access to nutritious food; increasing social contact
between people; increasing understanding of the links between food, environment and health; increasing opportunity for
community involvement; making greater use of co-operation between businesses
Natural capital: encouraging farmers to adopt more environmentally friendly production systems; generating fewer
‘food miles’; enhancing the viability of traditional farming systems that benefit the environment; conservation of air, soil
and water, including reduced pollution and waste.
Foundation for Local Food Initiatives 2003: 4-5
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3.4.1 Social impacts of LFS/SFSCs
When discussing the social impacts of LFS/SFSCs, many
authors reference papers from the late 1990s / early 2000s.
Claims about the social impacts of LFS/SFSCs are oen
repeated, but there appears to be little agreement on robust
indicators of the social impact of LFS/SFSCs. Rather, authors
use an array of terms and concepts (e.g. trust, regard,
social embeddedness) to try and capture the significance
of the social relationships which are formed around these
food chains. From the papers reviewed the following most
significant social impacts have been identified (Table 5),
which are supported primarily by qualitative evidence to
substantiate claims:
i Social interaction, trust, social embeddedness
Much research stresses that building relationships of trust is
a central component and an important benefit of LFS/SFSCs.
Sinnreich’s (2007) study of Polish Farmers’ Markets found
that the building of relationships between consumer and
producer is ‘essential’ and provides a ‘unique experience’. It
is stated that the product can be explained to the consumer
and many people (especially older people) prefer to talk to
someone who knows something about the product. Sage
(2003) discusses the significance of relationships at Farmers’
Markets in Ireland. Kirwan (2004) found that trust was built
through the face-to-face interaction between producers and
consumers at UK Farmers’ Markets. Similarly, Hendrickson
and Heffernan (2002: 363) examined the Kansas City Food
Circle (USA) and suggest that trust is “not referring to food
product in itself but the notion that one can trust the farmer
to produce this food in a ‘safe’ way because the consumer
knows the farmers and hold them responsible”. They found
that ‘trust’ comprises responsibility from the producer (to
produce healthy, wholesome food, to be eaten by people
who they know), and responsibility from consumers (towards
the producers, whom form part of the community). Smithers
et al. (2008: 345) in their study of 15 Farmer’s Markets
in Canada, also found that customers typically wish to
support, preferably local, farming and farmers/producers
and that trust is a central element to this, “knowledge of
farmers production practices appear much less important
to customers [...] we sense here that is not so much that
shoppers are disinterested in farming practices, but rather
that trust frequently trumps the need for the details!” Indeed,
significant numbers of consumers fail to assure themselves
that the vendor is actually the producer. Additionally, Ilbery
and Maye (2005), found that for the majority of dairy and
egg producers interviewed, the establishment of good
personal relationships with customers is critically important
(Ilbery and Maye, 2005)2.
Interestingly, Murphy’s (2011) survey of 252 customers at
11 farmers’ markets in New Zealand, found that interaction
with producers was not particularly valued by consumers,
who indicated a preference for a more traditional and
passive role (Murphy, 2011). Moreover, when researching
producer and consumer motivations for attending Farmers’
Markets, Kirwan (2004:401) found that the social benefits
were oen seen as a “welcomed by-product rather than a
primary motivation”.
ii Sense of community
Many LFS/SFSCs (particularly CSAs) attempt to build
communities and relationships around the growing and
eating of food, and this is reflected in many case studies
from different countries. Hayden and Buck’s (2012) study
of CSAs in New York identifies ‘social concern’ which can
be illustrated through the open and sympathetic nature of
members towards the farmer’s personal struggles. DeLind
(2011) also discusses the market in terms of ‘community’;
as place-building and improving of relationships around
neighbourhood-based, food-related activities (see also
2 The importance of relationships, through face-to-face contact is also highlighted
in Canavan et al.’s (2007) Irish study of the strengths and weaknesses of internet/
direct sales. They note that internet shopping does not allow for interaction with staff
or products – which is oen a key part of buying speciality foods, i.e. consumers value
a close relationship with producer and understanding of production context.
Table 5: Social impacts of LFS/SFSCs
Social impacts Examples of studies (with supporting evidence)
Interaction / connection (between producer and
Notions of trust and relationships; Relations of
regard; wider concept of social capital
Abatekassa and Peterson (2011); Canavan et al., (2007);
Chiffoleau (2009); Hendrickson and Heffernan (2002);
Hinrichs (2000); Ilbery and Maye (2005); Kirwan (2004,
2006); Mount (2011); Murphy (2011); Pretty (2001); Sage
(2003); Sharp and Smith (2003); Sinnreich (2007); Smithers
et al. (2008); Tregear (2011); Venn et al. (2006)
2 Sense of community
Abatekassa and Peterson (2011); Chiffoleau (2009); DeLind
(2011); Hayden and Bucks (2012); Lawson et al. (2008);
McGrath et al., (1993)
3 Increased knowledge / behavioural change Cox et al. (2008); Hayden and Buck (2012); Torjusten et a.
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 28 14/05/13 17:38
Abatekassa and Peterson 2011). On the aspect of
‘relationships’, Chiffoleau’s (2009) study of farmers’ markets
and box schemes in southern France found that, “alternative
supply chains can renew ties between producers by
decoupling political relations and through the embeddedness
of sales activity in technical and friendship relations, both of
which favour co-operation towards innovation.” Lawson et al.
(2008: 14) found that the continued reference to community
dimensions in relation to New Zealand farmers’ markets can
only arise because “farmers are willing to come together
and recognise the potential benefits that emerge from
cooperative activity.”
Whilst case studies generally identify the importance of
trusting social relationships, or a sense of community
associated with LFS/SFSCs, a few studies have also
highlighted the potential for such food chains to contribute
to, or reinforce social exclusion. This theme has been most
developed by studies from the USA which have identified
a racial dimension to AFNs, whereby such initiatives are
mainly the preserve of white, middle class and affluent
consumers (Hinrichs and Allen 2008; Guthman 2008).
Winter (2003) in his qualitative and quantitative UK study
found that the preference for local food over organic food
was due to a ‘defensive localism’ rather than a strong ‘turn
to quality’ based around organic and ecological production.
Some studies have found that LFS are more expensive and
thus inaccessible to lower income consumers (Brown et al ;
2009 Macias 2008), but this point is contested (for example
Kneafsey et al. 2008).
iii Increased knowledge leading to behavioural change
The impact of behaviour change as a result of gaining
knowledge from participating in SFSC schemes is apparent
in the literature. This benefit is noted in studies based in
America, the UK, and Denmark and Norway. For example
Torjusten et al. (2008) surveyed three organic box schemes,
two in Norway and one in Denmark. They found that box
scheme participants gained an increased knowledge of food,
food practices and agricultural systems. Such an increase in
knowledge could lead to wider behavioural change; in both
their studies Cox et al. (2008) and Hayden and Buck (2012)
found a wider behavioural change of participants in CSA
schemes. Cox et al., (2008) called this the ‘graduation effect’
whereby participants are inspired to address other aspects of
their consumption or lifestyle aer they have thought about
food. Saltmarsh et al. (2011) in their recent study of CSAs
in England found that 70% of CSA members said that their
cooking and eating habits had changed, primarily through
using more local, seasonal and healthy food; 66% said that
their shopping habits had changed, principally through a shi
to more local shopping. Interestingly, CSA has a perceived
effect on members’ health, skills and well-being: 70% saying
that their overall quality of life has improved; 46% say their
health has improved; 32% say they have developed new
skills; 49% identify some other personal benefit. Employees
frequently report high levels of job satisfaction from a
supportive work environment and regular contact with the
community the initiative supplies.
3.4.2 Economic Benefits of LFS/SFSCs
It is oen claimed that LFS/SFSCs can generate economic
gains for producers, consumers and local communities. For
example, the SUS-CHAINS project concluded that:
“One of the interesting findings in this respect is that direct and
regional marketing initiatives do generate additional income
and employment for rural regions, although the degree to
which they do so differs. In addition they enable synergies with
other regional economic activities and oen contribute to an
increase in job satisfaction and organisational capacity within
rural communities, greater consumer trust in food systems,
and reductions in food miles or waste. In more marginal
areas, these benefits can help counter the abandonment of
agriculture, out-migration and ‘greying’ populations”. Roep
and Wiskerke (2006, Foreward).
Various methodologies have been used to demonstrate
the economic impacts of LFS/SFSCs, although it has
been highlighted that not all the methods applied are
appropriate or transparent (Henneberry et al., 2009). Data
is oen generated through localised case studies (e.g.
Alonso and O’Neill, 2011, Broderick et al. 2011, Connelly
et al. 2011, Maxey et al. 2011). Case studies oen utilize
questionnaires with farmers or other decision makers and
their perception of economic performance may differ from
measured performance through farm accountancy networks.
Our review has identified case studies from America (US,
Canada), Australia, New Zealand and Europe but few draw
comparisons between different countries or sectors (Mikkola,
i Rural Development and Economic Regeneration
Many studies suggest that LFS/SFSCs can contribute towards
rural development and economic regeneration. Du Puis and
Goodman (2005: 364) state that SFSCs can be “seen as new
sources of value added which can be retained locally and
can act as a catalyst for rural economic regeneration and
dynamism.” SFSCs create ‘new economic spaces’ (quoting
Van der Ploeg et al. 2000; Marsden et al. 2002; Renting et
al. 2003), and can reverse the decline of rural services and
the depletion in food and farming physical infrastructure
(see also Pearson et al. 2011). Furthermore, Du Puis and
Goodman (2005: 365) state that “SFSC are in a position to
valorize those qualifiers of ‘the local’ and its socio-ecological
attributes—terroir, traditional knowledge, landrace species,
for example—that can be translated into higher prices.” In
this context, the construct of local is deployed to convey
meaning at a distance, thereby a source of value, in the form
of ‘economic rent’.
More specifically, it is claimed that shortening the number
of links in the supply chain results in increased local sales,
increased demand for local services, and increased labour
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markets. These impacts can be quantified in terms of
multiplier effects. The multiplier effect that farmers’ markets
can have on the local economy has been demonstrated
through several American studies. Otto and Varner (2005)
reported that farmers’ markets in Iowa generated an
estimated $31.5 million of gross sales during the 2004
market season, and the calculated multiplier effect was 1.58.
The authors stated that around $4.3 million of these effects
were ‘indirect’ (including wholesale or supply transactions
that support the market vendors) and approximately $7.2
million were ‘induced’ (a result of personal purchases
made by the market vendors and employees). Similarly,
Henneberry et al., (2009) reported a multiplier effect of 1.78
from farmers’ market activity in Oklahoma during 2002,
stating that they generated sales of $3.3million, which had
an impact if $5.9million on the Oklahoma economy.
Some studies have also suggested that the presence of
SFSCs such as farmers’ markets, attract shoppers into areas
they would not necessarily visit, and this results in increased
trade for local business. This has been suggested by Lev et
al., (2003), who found that many farmers’ market shoppers
surveyed in Oregon, travelled to downtown areas specifically
to visit the market, and also spent additional money at
neighbouring businesses (Lev et al., 2003).
Few European studies have been published which quantify
the impacts of SFSCs on the economy, although one study of
an organic box scheme in the United Kingdom (Boyde 2001)
found that every £1 spent on a local box scheme resulted
in a £2.59 contribution to the local economy (defined as the
area within a 15 mile radius of the farm). In contrast, when
£1 was spent at the supermarket chain store, it only resulted
in a £1.40 contribution to the local economy. A more recent
study by the New Economics Foundation (2011) using the
Social Return on Investment model (SROI), found that in two
local authority areas in England, spending on seasonal, local
produce for school meals has risen dramatically, returning
over £3 in social, economic and environmental value for every
£1 spent. SROI is an increasingly popular approach which
allows a broad range of outcomes to be captured, measured
and valued than is usually possible with conventional cost-
benefit analyses.
LFS/SFSC have been also described as a notable source
of employment opportunities (Roininen et al., 2006), and
positive multiplier effects have been associated with this
(Henneberry et al., 2009; Otto and Varner, 2005). These
employment opportunities may be directly attributed to
production and sales (i.e. growing, picking, packing, selling
etc.), or indirectly through the supply and service sectors
(i.e. companies providing raw materials, retail outlets). Otto
and Varner (2005) estimated that over 140 full employment
positions could be indirectly attributed to farmers’ market
activity in Iowa, USA. The multiplier effect for employment
was 1.45, so for every full-time equivalent job created at
farmers’ markets, a further half of a full-time equivalent
job was supported in other sectors of the economy,
predominantly in agriculture and retail. Similarly, Henneberry
et al. (2009) reported that the multiplier effect associated
with famers’ markets in Oklahoma, USA, was 1.41. In total
113 full time equivalent jobs could be attributed to the 21
famers’ markets studied – 81 of these jobs were direct and
associated with agriculture, and a further 17 were indirect
and 16 were induced through the local economy. These
two studies from the USA demonstrate how employment
opportunities are generated through farmers’ markets,
but it must be acknowledged that these markets are oen
seasonal, and the associated multiplier effects should
therefore be interpreted with caution (Otto and Varner, 2005).
Some authors have argued that the economic benefits can
be unevenly distributed, and while some sectors will gain
sales, income, and jobs there will be losses in other sectors.
Goodman (2004) suggests that diversification to exploit
SFSCs, oen makes use of resources already available on
farms (in terms of land, crasmanship, livestock, products
etc.), and so this raises questions about the magnitude and
distribution of local multiplier effects.
Pearson et al. (2011: 889) have also suggested that LFS offer
opportunities for tourism and further positive associated
economic impacts: “An additional economic benefit [of local
food systems] is the potential from increased tourism due to
local branding and recreational shopping opportunities. The
revenue achieved in all of these local businesses tends to
remain in the local economy, where it has a multiplier benefit
through adding to employment in other service industries in
the local community.” Some authors argue that SFSCs are a
product rather than driver of socio-economic development
(Tregear, 2011). This is supported by work by Ricketts Hein et
al. (2006), who state that areas with lots of alternative food
networks tend to be rich in resources and possess a diverse
agricultural base.
ii Farm level economic impacts
One of the most commonly reported economic benefits
associated with LFS/SFSCs, is that of increased income for
the producer. It has been suggested that producers are able
to add a price premium when selling through SFSCs (Pearson
et al., 2011), that the elimination of the ‘middleman’ enables
farmers to receive a greater share of the profits (Sage,
2003) and that SFSCs provide growers with an opportunity
to diversify and add value to their produce that would not
usually be marketed (Alonso, 2011). Despite these claims,
which are numerous in the literature, few are supported by
empirical research.
Of the studies which do present supporting evidence, the
majority of evidence is qualitative, and based on perceptions
and experiences. For example, when traders at a farmers’
market in New Zealand were asked, in an unprompted
way, to supply their reasons for using the market, the
main motivation identified was for the ‘economic’ benefits
(Lawson et al., 2008). Specifically, the perceived economic
benefits were, “the desire to obtain a fair price, the wish to
avoid middlemen and to obtain a supplementary income”
(Lawson et al., 2008: 19). Similarly, consumers have the
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 30 14/05/13 17:38
perception that SFSCs offer farmers increased returns. This
is illustrated by work by Feagan and Morris (2009) which
examined consumer motivations for shopping at a Farmers’
Market in Ontario, Canada, using a survey of 149 customers.
They found that a total of 83% of the respondents agreed
strongly about supporting local farmers.
Few studies have quantified these suggested increases in
returns although Lencucha et al., (1998) (cited in Henneberry
et al, 2009: 65) did estimate that producers selling through
farmers’ markets receive an additional return of 40-
80%. Few reports, however, provide economic data like
turnover, prices, costs, labour input, and other management
accounting. Mikkola (2008: p 203) states that this is because
“One difficulty in studying economic relations within supply
chains is that they are dynamic, invisible and possibly
confidential; they need to be identified and approached rather
than sampled.” In Mikkola’s work three contrasting vegetable
supply chains in Finland were compared: (1) Industrial chain
from farms in southern Europe (2) Large conventional
chain and (3) Small organic chain with diverse seasonal
vegetables for local supermarkets and caterers. The small
chain is characterised as a ‘socially overlaid network’, and
this may be seen as a modification of the ‘strategic network’
(Jarillo, 1988). Socially overlaid networks seem able to
“invite” initiatives and the use of tacit competences, leading
to improvement of product quality and sustainable chain
growth. Developing the “backbone” of the chain towards this
coordinative mode may, due to the “regard for the other”,
require social skills and human resources, not necessarily
recognized by large companies experiencing the trend for
increasing concentration.
Alonso and O’Neill (2011) examined the extent to which small
farmers and growers in rural Alabama, USA, are interested
in becoming involved with value-adding their product
line. As with many such studies, a relatively small sample
size was involved: a total of 33 small growers completed
a questionnaire. The authors conclude that much of what
respondents grow could be further processed into value-
added products. However, research showed that the concept
of value-adding produce is little understood amongst many
rural farmers. Bloom and Hinrichs (2011) use a value chain
model (based on business management studies and adapted
to the context of agrifood enterprises) as a framework for
investigating how actors who are accustomed to working
within the logic of the traditional produce industry incorporate
local food into their overall operations. Using a comparative
case study in a rural and urban region of Pennsylvania, USA,
they focus on conventional wholesale distributors as the link
between local producers and local buyers. Interviews with
the distributors, producers and buyers reveal the sources
and outcomes of challenges affecting how the distributors
organise their purchasing and selling of local produce.
Network practices are important as distributors struggle to
pay producers enough to maintain economic viability, while
still making local produce accessible to a wide range of
An Australian case study (Broderick et al. 2011) suggests
that producer-driven family farm marketing of branded
meat is a feasible alternative to supplying mainstream
buyers. Revenues were stabilized by avoiding the variability
in farm-gate prices. Farms captured the marketing margin
as well as gaining a premium through a brand promise of
consistently good eating quality and providing information
about attributes. Producer marketing was feasible where
negotiation costs were minimised, particularly labour
requirements to market the product beyond the farm-
gate. Labour costs were reduced through the use of family
labour. Transaction costs were minimised by increasing the
volume sold through selling of bulk packs, attendance at
well-frequented farmers’ markets and cost-effective brand
promotion. The adequacy of the profit gained was reconciled
with personal goals, such as farm-based employment
for spouses or to support a farming lifestyle. Important
economic factors of producers’ interaction with marketing
and food supply chain Broderick et al. highlight are:
• Labour family labour, volunteer labour, apprentice labour,
casual labour, professional labour and fees
• Marketing margin
• Negotiation costs
• Transaction costs
Maxey et al. (2011) have examined the economics of growing
food on small-scale sites with 10 acres (4 ha) or less. They
use eight current UK case studies: four fruit and vegetable
growers, a mushroom grower, a ducklings hatchery, a mail
order seed company, and a mixed holding selling cider, honey,
eggs, and lamb. The threshold of 4 ha is below the level at
which farms are typically considered viable in the UK; e.g. 5
ha (12 acres) are required for a farm to qualify for permitted
development rights. The authors conclude that economically
viable and sustainable land based enterprises can be created
on holdings of 4 ha or less. In addition small livelihoods can be
created on marginal sites, as illustrated by some of the case
studies. These livelihoods oen follow a slow development
trajectory, allowing growers to avoid commercial loans and
time to develop “in harmony with the ecosystem” as the
authors put it. To judge the ecological or economic success
of these smallholdings it is recommended to take a long-
term view. The mental attitude and approach are seen as the
most significant factor in creating viable smallholdings. This
approach includes commitment, willingness to work long
hours, patience, long-term perspective and creative, solution-
focused thinking. All eight case studies achieve high yields per
unit area by intensive and/or diverse cropping and then add
value through processing and direct marketing. Enterprise
diversity is a common feature of the successful case studies.
The most profitable small-scale land based enterprises are
labour intensive and horticulture is seen as better suited to
small scale than livestock. Where smallholders can purchase
land at agricultural land prices, the system offers affordable
opportunities to enter farming. High property prices in the
UK remain the single greatest barrier to new entrants to
small-scale farming. This analysis also shows that for small-
scale business the main criteria are their sheer economic
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
existence and continued survival, which could also be called
sustainable livelihoods. They may not generate similar
incomes per input of labour hours as other farms, and would
question such a narrow success indicator anyway, but they
are robust enough to survive economic turmoil.
These case study success stories reported from various
countries contrast somewhat with findings when a
large survey is conducted. Uematsu and Mishra (2011),
examined the impact of direct marketing of farm products
to consumers on farm business income. Using a large US
national survey they found that direct marketing strategies
have little impact on farmer income, and that the use of
farmers markets is negatively associated with income. They
suggest that direct marketing to consumers may be more
of a risk management tool than a tool for increasing profits
or revenue. Sage (2003) also stressed the importance of
assessing the relative profitability of different SFSCs and of
comparing their returns with long food distribution systems.
This is important, not only to assess the success of SFSCs,
but also because “the suspicion at this stage is that for many
of the more successful enterprises, it is involvement in the
latter [long distribution chains] that partly enables them
to engage in face-to-face and other spatially proximate
marketing strategies” (Sage, 2003: 58). Lawson et al.s
(2008) survey of farmers’ market traders in New Zealand,
revealed that only 12 per cent of the stallholders relied on
the market as their only distribution outlet. The authors found
that most stallholders used a combination of two or three
alternative channels to distribute products. This is supported
by Ilbery and Maye (2005), who examined the retailing and
processing aspects of local food products, by carrying out
interviews with livestock farmers in the Scottish-English
borders. The authors concluded that both conventional and
alternative supply chains are important for creating a market
for local foods. They found that many small-scale, alternative
operators cannot rely solely upon SFSCs and instead mix
alternative (short) and conventional (long) chains for both
their upstream and downstream service requirements.
Lower average profits may be due to the added labour
requirements of direct marketing strategies. Hinrichs (2000:
301) notes that “Farmers who have turned to direct marketing
in order to continue farming must pay much closer attention
to costs and prices than hobby farmers or market gardeners,
supported by other employment.” Hinrichs (2000: 301) also
outlines that farmers must consider finances across a range
of areas: “Costs must be covered, farmers deserve a living
wage (as well as benefits), and the physical and natural
infrastructures need to be stewarded. And CSA must also
`get the prices right’ in another respect, if the promising
alternative it represents is to be accessible and affordable
to people of limited means.” Both of their results call into
question the true sustainability of local food systems from
the standpoint of producers.
A conclusion from these contrasting findings may be that
there are many successful examples of local, small-scale
and short food supply chains across the globe. They are
encouraging options for some or even more and more
farms, however, if national surveys of all farms are used,
direct marketing is currently not an option for the majority of
farms. While certain risks like dependency on single outlets,
anonymity and commodity type price pressures can be
avoided with direct marketing they are exchanged with new
marketing risks, labour requirements and costs. These do not
translate into higher average profits in all cases.
Many producers operating SFSCs primarily do so for ethical
reasons, and many put the wider common good ahead of
self-interest. In some cases, this means producers oen
become ‘profit sufficers’ rather than ‘profit maximizers’ (Ilbery
and Kneafsey, 1998). This is illustrated by interviews carried
out with farmers in Washington, which reported that one of
the farmers did not feel the need to profit from her work as
she regarded “her contribution to her community in terms
of reciprocity that does not involve capital accumulation”
(Jarosz, 2008: 240). While this is only based on the opinion
of the one farmer, Jarosz (2008: 240) states that it does
“raise important questions about the sustainability of
direct marketing for small farms, and illustrates why some
small farmers are ambivalent about the impacts of direct
marketing upon their livelihoods”. Similarly, Sage (2003)
identified farmers in south-west Ireland “for whom the
enjoyment of selling through the local farmers’ market
might compensate in part for their low monetary return. The
production of use values together with the grant of regard
from a small band of loyal customers does not, however,
sustain livelihoods or ensure fulfilment, as the abandonment
of smallholdings by disillusioned and ‘‘burnt-out’’ producers
testifies” (Sage, 2003, p.58).
3.4.3 Environmental Impacts
Claims for environmental benefits in the referenced sources
included: reduction in ‘food miles’ and carbon footprint
for local food, positive impacts on (agro-) biodiversity and
reduction in the use of agrochemicals for organic farms. These
benefits are discussed in further detail below. The majority
of papers briefly reported that SFSCs were ‘beneficial’ for the
environment but then did not provide any further qualitative
or quantitative evidence to substantiate claims made. Aer
evaluating the content of each of these articles, only a small
number were relevant. It is important to note that none of
the articles examined reported environmental benefits for
‘SFSCs’ as a whole, but rather for different individual types
of SFSC (as they are defined for this project). The focus of
the articles varied and included (not in order of frequency);
organic farming, local food, AFNs and CSAs. In this section,
the term SFSC will be used as an umbrella term, and where
appropriate, the different types of SFSC will be discussed
separately. Whilst many SFSCs are organic, this is not a
necessary feature of SFSCs. There is considerable research
on the relative environmental impacts of organic compared
to ‘conventional’ production practices, but this evidence
is not reviewed here because the focus of the study is on
SFSCs and not on organic production.
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 32 14/05/13 17:38
i Energy use and carbon footprint
Earlier articles mostly discuss the reduction in ‘food miles’
associated with LFS and SFSCs as an environmental benefit.
The food miles concept, first coined in 1992 by Tim Lang, is
relatively simple to understand, and comparisons between
food items are easily made in terms of the carbon emitted
in the transportation of the item from producer to retailer or
consumer (Edwards-Jones et al. 2008; Seyfang 2008). Whilst
the term has become popular with the media and general
public, more recent research has demonstrated that it does
not give a true picture of the total Greenhouse Gas (GHG)
emissions involved in the whole food supply system. There
are GHG emissions associated with production, processing
and storage which these comparisons do not take into
account (AEA Technology 2005; Edwards-Jones et al. 2008).
Similarly, the term ‘local’ may be liked by consumers, and
is given as a reason for purchase, but is a rather difficult
term to define (Seyfang 2008). It might be a useful indicator
again of the carbon emissions involved in transportation, but
‘local’ producers may use conventional farming methods or
processing methods which negatively affect the environment
(Scialabba & Müller-Lindenlauf 2010; De Weerdt 2009a;b).
More recently, researchers have evaluated the environmental
impact of food items using Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) (Cowell
& Parkinson 2003; Williams et al. 2006; Van Hauwermeiren
et al. 2007; Milà i Canals et al. 2007; Edwards-Jones et al.
2008; Edwards-Jones 2010). A combination of the descriptors
‘organic’ and ‘local’ may generally give a better indication of
environmental importance of any SFSC, but even this does
not guarantee that consumers would be making the most
environmentally sound choice. For example, if organic, local
products are stored and purchased out of season, these
products may have a greater carbon footprint than non-local
goods (Cowell & Parkinson, 2003; Van Hauwermeiren et al.
2007; Edwards-Jones et al. 2008).
Several authors consider that local supply chain and
relocalisation of economic activities might not imply a better
performance in terms of energy use and environmental
footprint, because of lower volumes. The work of Schlich
et al. (2006) compares energy consumption of regional
versus global food chains for different products and seems
to conclude on a positive impact of concentration of trade
and transportation on the energy use per unit of products
marketed. On the other hand, a number of LCA analyses are
available which provide evidence that ‘local food’ can in some
cases be beneficial to the environment in terms of reduced GHG
emissions compared to non-local food (Van Hauwermeiren
et al. 2007; Pelletier et al. 2011). LCA analyses report total
GHG emissions associated with an individual food product in
CO2 equivalents for the production, processing, storage and
distribution. In a review of LCA analyses which compared
‘local food’ and ‘non-local food’, Edwards-Jones et al. (2008)
found that the results of analyses varied according to the
type of food product, type of farming operations used, mode
of transport, season, scale of production, and also method of
analysis used, availability of data for inputs, and boundaries
of the system defined (i.e. what is included in the analysis
and what is not). They therefore concluded that there was
insufficient evidence to conclude whether or not local food
is better for the environment than non-local food (Edwards-
Jones et al. 2008). To illustrate the complexities of making
such comparisons, (Edwards-Jones et al. 2008) compared
the results of LCAs carried out for apples produced in the
UK, Sweden and New Zealand. The results of LCA provided
by the EU based researchers found that locally produced
apples were more energy efficient than those produced in
New Zealand. Even though it is more energy efficient to grow
apples in New Zealand, the energy used transporting these to
Europe negates this (Edwards-Jones et al. 2008). Conversely,
New Zealand based researchers found the opposite to be
true, the contradictory results are due largely to the choice
of system boundary and methodologies (Edwards-Jones et
al. 2008). Another study they report (by Milá i Canals et al.
2007) compares apples produced in selected countries in the
southern hemisphere and also in Europe. This study found
that whilst UK apples, consumed locally in October had a
smaller carbon footprint than those grown in the southern
hemisphere, if the same apple crop is stored until the
following August and then consumed locally, then imported
apples can have a smaller carbon footprint (Edwards-Jones
et al. 2008).
A study by Coley et al. (2011) looked at the carbon
emissions of delivery schemes compared to direct sales
for vegetable box schemes. The study compared the GHG
emissions and energy use of consumers who travelled to
collect their produce in a local box scheme compared to a
large commercial organic box scheme that delivered to its
customers. The study found that customers who have to
drive more than 6.7km in a round trip to buy their organic
vegetables have higher levels of emissions when compared
to the emissions involved in the system used by the large
distributor. In this case emissions included cold storage,
packing, transport to a regional hub and final delivery to the
customer’s doorstep. The authors suggest that these findings
mean that some of the ideas regarding the environmental
benefits of local food in terms of the reduction in food miles
and GHGs need to be rethought Coley et al. (2011). Similarly,
Mundler and Rumpus (2012: 614) conclude that actor’s
actual practices influence energy use and that arrangements
can be sought to optimise logistics in short food chains: in
a peri-urban context (the region of Lyon was studied), “local
food systems can have an energy score that is comparable
to, if not better than, long sales chains.”
In summary, it is possible to carry out life cycle analysis
to quantitatively compare individual products produced
in different food supply systems, and a large number of
these analyses are available in the literature. Such analyses
compare organic with non-organic and also local with non-
local food systems. However, whilst the quantitative analysis
is robust, the interpretation of the results needs care. The
results of LCA depend very much on the methodology
and most importantly the functional unit and boundaries
of the system investigated, and therefore are really only
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
valid for the system and specific product evaluated. Life
cycle analysis ideally should be carried out on the product
from ‘cradle to grave’, but this is not oen possible, food
products are usually only evaluated from ‘cradle to gate’.
Thus interpretation of any analysis needs to consider which
components of the food system (e.g. production, processing,
transport, storage, retail, consumption) have been included
and excluded. Furthermore, rather than consider the whole
farm system and all of its products, life cycle analysis
considers only one product at a time. These caveats are true
of any LCA and so equally apply to comparisons of complex
mainstream food supply chains.
ii Other environmental impacts: sustainability and SFSCs
One of the many reasons for the development of SFSCs and
other alternatives to the mainstream is the recognition that
intensive agriculture has had a serious negative impact on
the environment (Stuart 2008). Whilst agriculture in the EU
may not be as substantial in terms of its contribution to
the GDP of EU countries as it once was, farming is still a
major land use throughout Europe. The practices adopted
by intensive agriculture have resulted in ‘simplified, artificial
agro-ecosystems which rely on human inputs to regulate
them’ (Hole et al. 2006; Stuart 2008). This reliance on inputs
and technology has had a wide range of impacts. Whilst
energy use is an important theme as agriculture contributes
around 30% of total global emissions of greenhouse gases
(GHGs) it is not the only consideration (McMichael, 2008).
Other environmental impacts are also important and any one
of these may have more significance on a local scale. Other
environmental impacts of intensive farming which have
not been covered extensively in the literature on SFSCs are:
loss of biodiversity, destruction of habitats, pollution of soil
and water from pesticide and fertiliser use, eutrophication,
soil erosion and degradation, and deforestation (Altieri,
1999; IAASTD, 2008; McMichael, 2008; Wiskerke, 2009).
Plassmann & Edwards-Jones (2009) have questioned just
how ‘local’ local food actually is, when many of the inputs
even for unprocessed seasonal food, such as fuel for farm
machinery are sourced from considerable distances from
the farm.
Cowell and Parkinson (2003) examined the sustainability
of local food in terms of land and energy use for the UK
as a whole. In their study they developed a series of
equations, measuring the amount of land needed for UK
self-sufficiency. The two indicators chosen were ‘energy’ and
‘land use.’ Results of the study suggest that self-sufficiency
for the UK is possible, but that a greater amount of land
in production is required as is a change in peoples’ eating
habits. The authors noted that their study was based only
on two indicators, so should be seen as a pilot study, but
does suggest that with some changes, eating more local
food is possible for the UK consumer. Two key changes in the
average diet would be required to achieve this, namely: to
consume alternatives for imported fruit and vegetables, and
to consume less meat and more plant based foods, as these
require lower energy and water inputs (Penning de Vries et
al., 1995; Gerbens-Leenes & Nonhebel, 2002). Similarly,
self-sufficiency is possible for the EU. In an EU wide study,
calculations indicated that it would be possible to provide a
basic diet in terms of a balanced diet with sufficient calories
for all nations in the EU, but that this does not consider
Table 6: Potential qualitative indicators of environmental benefits
Potential environmental benefits
associated with this indicator Issues to consider
Reduced GHG emissions associated with
How to define local, it may not be possible to
produce one definition for all EU countries
Does this need to be given a legal definition;
otherwise can it be misappropriated?
Seasonal Reduced GHG emissions involved in
Seasons can be extended e.g. by using heated
Does this need to be given a legal definition;
otherwise can it be misappropriated?
sound production
Reduced GHG emissions involved in
Reduced or no pesticide use
Reduced soil and water pollution
Reduced soil degradation
Enhanced biodiversity
Water conservation
Minimum processing: reduces GHG
involved in processing and storage,
Minimise non-local inputs
There is wide variation in the choice of farming
system used by producers. Should ‘ecologically
sound’ mean that producers meet all, the majority or
some of these behaviours?
If producers need to meet only some measures to be
considered ecologically sound. Should the criteria be
weighted or ranked?
Is minimising non-local inputs possible or fair, due to
uneven distribution of resources?
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 34 14/05/13 17:38
cultural consumption. In support of the findings, the authors
also noted that diets can change fairly rapidly, as was the
was the case immediately following the Second World War
(Gerbens-Leenes & Nonhebel, 2002).
In a study commissioned by the UK Department for
Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to determine whether
food miles were a suitable indicator of sustainability for UK
food, AEA Technology (2005) examined the impacts of food
transport. The authors concluded that food miles alone were
not adequate as an indicator of sustainability, and that the
issue was more complex than this, that a suite of indicators
was necessary to take into account variations associated
with different forms of transport (AEA Technology, 2005).
For any type of SFSC with an organic component, it can be
assumed that there are benefits for biodiversity associated
with the lack of agrochemicals in the system (Hole et al.
2003; Seyfang 2008). This could apply to a range of organic
SFSCs including box schemes, direct sales and farmers
markets. For other environmental benefits claimed the case
is less clear when comparing organic with conventional
farms. Environmental benefits depend on a range of factors
including: scale of farm, product grown, management used,
and location. However, not all organic farms utilize SFSCs;
many supply products to the mainstream supply chain.
Edwards-Jones et al. (2008) suggest that the best option
for consumers who have concerns for the health of their
environment would be to purchase local products, in season,
from producers who use ecologically sound production
methods. Just as there are issues with defining what is
meant by ‘local’, defining what ‘ecologically sound production
methods’ are, or what is meant by ‘environmentally produced’
is difficult. Equating ‘organic’ with ‘ecologically sound’ may do
a disservice to those farmers who are not certified organic
producers but who may use a range of ecologically sound
methods, but also assumes that organic farmers use only
ecologically sound methods for all of their farm processes.
This is not necessarily always the case, as it is possible in
some instances that organic farmers may have a larger
carbon foot print compared to their conventional neighbours
(Williams et al. 2006; De Weerdt 2009a; b).
To summarise, for minimum negative impact on the
environment in the food supply system, SFSCs should
include all of the following general characteristics: be local,
seasonal, and use ecologically sound production methods.
These terms presented in Table 6 and Table 7 could be used
as the basis for qualitative environmental indicators but
need further definition.
3.5 Consumer attitudes to
3.5.1 Consumer interest in local foods
Despite the definitional problems discussed above, the term
‘local’ currently commands much interest because consumers
have demonstrated a growing interest in sourcing ‘local’ food
products. ‘Local food’ has resonance for consumers, rather
than ‘short food supply chain’. Even though there is not much
clarity about what local food actually means: it does mean
something. Studies have shown that consumers like to buy
local foods for a range of reasons, including environmental
concerns, health reasons, perception that local foods are high
quality, the enjoyment of shopping at local outlets, and in
order to support local farmers, economies and communities
(Kirwan 2004; Seyfang 2008; Kneafsey et al. 2008). In a
recent survey of 26,713 EU citizens, 90% of respondents
agreed that buying local food is beneficial and that the EU
should promote their availability (Eurobarometer 2011).
However, over half found local products hard to identify.
The contribution that small farmers make to the social life
of rural areas, their importance to the economy and their
need to modernize are seen as valid reasons to assist small
farms. Over half of all respondents (55%) agreed that the EU
should encourage local markets and distribution channels,
and over half agreed that there are consumer benefits to
buying locally from a farm. Over half agreed that it would be
beneficial to have labels identifying local products and these
respondents were also more likely to recognize the benefits
to consumers of buying local foods and to agree that the EU
should help make local products more readily available.
Table 7: Potential Indicators, how do selected SFSC compare?
Type of SFSC Local Seasonal Ecologically sound production methods
CSA Yes Yes Mostly
Box scheme –local
collection Yes Mostly Possibly
Box scheme –national
delivery Possibly Possibly Possibly
Farm shop Yes Mostly Possibly
Farmers market Mostly Mostly Possibly
Internet sales No Possibly Possibly
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
A more recent survey (Eurobarometer 2012) shows that
the vast majority of EU citizens say that quality (96%) and
price (91%) are important to them when buying food, while
a substantial majority (71%) say that the origin of food is
important. Quality, price and origin are considered important
in most Member States with price being especially important
for those citizens who have difficulties paying bills. The
survey also reveals differences between countries. Whilst
in every Member State except the Netherlands (47%), more
than half the respondents regard the geographical origin of
food products as important, there are significant differences
between levels of importance in individual Member States.
The vast majority of respondents in Greece (90%) and Italy
(88%) consider origin to be important, while in the United
Kingdom (52%) and Belgium (56%) these proportions are
substantially lower. There are no significant differences
between EU15 and NMS12 countries on this question.
Similar trends to those identified in the Eurobarometer survey
have been found in national scale research. The UK Institute
for Grocery Distribution (2005), for example, found that 70%
of British consumers want to buy local food and their study
in 2012 reported that UK shoppers remained keen to support
their local economy and community by supporting local
producers and retailers, despite the economic downturn.
In fact, supporting the local economy had become more
important to consumers since 2011, and 36% stated they
were prepared to pay extra for locally produced food. Carpio
and Isengildina-Massa (2007) estimate that the consumers
of South Carolina (USA) are willing to pay an average
premium of 23 to 27% for State-produced products and
insist on the fact that consumer preferences evolve over
time, as similar studies concluded twenty years before that
consumers did not favor locally grown products. Arnoult et
al. (2007) come to a similar result in the UK for two products
(strawberries and lamb): aer price, the local origin is the
attribute the most valued by consumers (as well as products
of the season) to the detriment of an EU origin; “there is a
strong willingness to pay for locally produced goods”.
A recent survey in France shows that 72% of the French
consumers consider that it is very important / rather
important to buy local food (Sainte Marie et al., 2012): the
main reasons put forward by consumers being (i) to support
local agriculture and economy, (ii) the quality (taste) and
safety of food purchased, (iii) environmental reasons (less
transport and sounder farming practices). Chambers et
al. (2007) in the UK also found positive attitudes towards
local food, particularly in terms of appealing to local pride
and supporting British farmers – the latter extending into
‘ethnocentrism’. Yet Khan and Prior (2010) found that urban
consumers were confused by what ‘local food’ means. They
identified barriers to purchase as: perception that local food
too expensive, local is food not readily available, and no time
to find it (similar results are reported from a small study
by McEachern et al. 2010). They also noted that interest
in local food seems to increase with age (this is supported
by SERIO 2008, Eurobarometer 2011 and Sainte-Marie
2012). Interestingly, research identified so far provides
contradictory evidence about the extent to which knowledge
about and interest in food is strongly demarcated according
to income group (compare Chambers et al. 2007; Eden et
al. 2008; SERIO 2008). SERIO (2008) conducted a major,
mixed methods research project for the UK’s Department
for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. They identified a
growing consumer-led demand for local food, based on
positive attitudes towards such produce. Barriers to purchase
oen relate to time-pressures of modern everyday shopping
and cooking especially amongst urban consumers who work.
For targeting purposes they identified 4 different consumer
segments: Devotees (23%) buy frequently; Cynics (16%) do
not buy at all; Persisters (25%) make an effort to buy and
Abstainers (36%) find it difficult to overcome the barriers.
They identified logistical and distributional challenges for
large retailers attempting to sell local food but note that this
is where most significant growth is anticipated.
Whilst there seems to be a strong common interest in
supporting local producers and economies, it is also important
to note that the cultural geographies of consumption
behaviour differ across the EU, although research evidence
does not always confirm common assumptions about food
cultures see box 3. The Eurobarometer survey identified
differences of opinion across member states. For example,
whereas in most countries a majority of respondents ‘totally
agreed’ that the EU should encourage local food markets,
this was not the case in Italy, Malta, Austria, Poland and
Portugal. Also, a majority ‘totally agreed’ that labelling is a
good idea in all but seven member states. Another illustration
is that whilst several UK based studies have suggested that
there is general consumer interest in ‘buying local’ (even
though there may be confusion about what this actually
means), Ǻsebǿ et al.’s (2007) study of Norwegian Farmers
Markets found that producers were more interested in giving
consumers information than customers were in receiving
the information. Drawing on 337 short consumer interviews
(randomly sampled at Farmers Markets) and 162 producer
questionnaires they found that producers and consumers
Box 3 EU differences in consumer attitudes
Van Risjwijk et al. (2008) found that contrary to the view that Northern Europeans are more risk averse than
Mediterranean consumers who are more concerned about quality, Italian consumers were in fact most concerned about
safety. They suggest that this is related to trust in the state’s dealings with food safety issues. They note that the
question of ‘whether traceability information related to quality and safety can indeed increase consumer trust in foods’
remains unanswered.
Source of data: 163 qualitative consumer interviews in Germany, Italy, France and Spain.
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 36 14/05/13 17:38
regarded how food was produced as more important than
where it was produced.
3.5.2 Consumer attitudes towards labels
Extensive research on PDOs provides some insight into
consumer attitudes towards food labelling. Van Ittersum
et al. (2007) conducted a large scale, mixed methods
investigation into consumer’s appreciation of PDO labels
in the Netherlands, Italy and Greece. They drew three key
conclusions: Firstly, consumers’ appreciation of regional
certification labels may provide opportunities to increase
consumer demand by marketing products with a regional
label. Secondly, perceived quality is a strong determinant
of consumers’ willingness to pay for protected regional
products. Finally, as already suggested in the preceding
discussion, emotional aspects related to regional products
are also part of consumer attitudes – this can include
loyalty to local farmers, and can extend to ‘defensive
localism’ (Winter 2003) and ‘ethnocentric’ buying behaviour
(Chambers et al. 2007). Van Ittersum et al. (2007) conclude
that protecting products may be beneficial to stop copy
cats spoiling reputation and that communication strategies
should focus on quality-warranty and economic support
benefits of regional certification labels (this is especially
relevant to consumers with close ties to the region). They
argue that “regional certification labels help increase the
market transparency of regional product-quality, enabling
consumers to make better choices and in this way increase
consumer welfare” (Van Ittersum et al. 2007: 18), although
they recognize that a limitation of the research was that is
focused on consumers who already buy PDO products, and
not those who do not buy them, and these consumers may
already have decided to support regional producers for a
range of reasons. Attitudes and behaviour towards PDOs
clearly vary by country. In 1998 Tregear et al. found low
awareness of PDO/PGI schemes in the UK, as did Teuber in
Germany, 2011 (for other studies on consumer and PDOs
see Espejel et al. 2008; Herrera and Blanco 2011).
Whilst quantitative studies such as those described provide
a valuable indication of the strength of consumer interest in
local foods, qualitative studies help to cast light on why such
interest is not always translated into purchase behaviour,
and they also problematise the idea that labels could be
a potential solution to the challenge of increasing sales of
farm traceable produce. Many of the qualitative studies of
consumer behaviour in relation to LFS/SFSCs and labelling
emphasize the complex and context-dependent nature of
consumer decision making. They stress that interpretations
of consumers as either ‘knowledgeable’ or ‘ignorant’ tend to
downplay the situated practices of consumption and the ways
in which consumers interpret the wide range of information
they are exposed to (Kneafsey et al. 2008). Eden et al.
(2008), for instance, examine how consumers understand
food production and assurance information. They locate
their study within the context of attempts to ‘reconnect’
consumers with producers through SFSCs and assurance
schemes which can ‘unveil’ or ‘de-fetishize’ commodities.
They question the notion that changing consumer behaviour
(towards more sustainable consumption, for example) can
be achieved through a ‘knowledge fix’ in the form of better
food labelling. Their research challenges the assumption that
more knowledge will reconnect producers and consumers,
because “people do not simply act on information in a
linear or predictable fashion” (2008: 4), and indeed there
is uncertainty as to the extent to which shoppers even
use food labels. A recent Eurobarometer (2012) survey of
26,593 respondents found that 67% of EU citizens check
food purchases to see if they have quality labels indicating
specific characteristics. However, only 22% of those polled
say that they always check for these labels, while 45% say
that they do this sometimes and 32% of respondents never
More information can actually cause ‘latent’ attitudes to
come to the surface. In their focus groups with consumers,
Eden et al. (2008) found that through discussion between
shoppers, trust in quality assurance schemes was actually
undermined as respondents began to question their own
taken-for-granted assumptions about the authority behind
certification. Confusion was also caused by the names of
the assurance organisations: not all were recognised and so
there was no reason to trust them. Supermarkets were not
particularly trusted because of commercial motives and this
is a theme which emerges in other work on UK consumer
attitudes (e.g. Chambers et al. 2007; Dowler et al. 2011). The
point is that “trust is produced not merely by information, but
by its source... In other words, the messenger, not necessarily
the message, matters” (Eden et al. 2008: 9).
Eden et al. use their research to critique elements of the
‘reconnection agenda’ which invest high potential in the ability
of labelling schemes to contribute to changes in consumer
behaviour: “the reconnection agenda itself sometimes
‘imagines’ consumers too simplistically, seeing them as
disconnected (and therefore ignorant) and ready to respond
positively to information about the supply chain” (2008: 13).
They argue for a need to “move beyond a simple argument
that providing information will change consumption or even
be readily understandable to consumers” (2008: 13).
Qualitative studies such as these raise questions as to
the effectiveness of labelling schemes and instead focus
on the ways in which relationships between producers
and consumers are embedded into daily practices and
geographies of food shopping.
3.6 Institutional support for
In this section we summarize the institutional activities
which directly support LFS/SFSC. Whilst the focus is on the
EU, it is worth noting research by Sharp and Jackson-Smith
(2010) who conducted a US national study of over 500 rural-
urban interface counties to identify those places that have
Literature and Evidence Review
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
active policies, programs, and organisations to encourage
local food and farming development. They identify three key
questions which also seem pertinent to the EU:
(1) Do counties have active policies, programs and organisa-
tions and how pervasive are they?
(2) What are the social and cultural characteristics of the
communities that are actively involved in agricultural
economic development?
(3) Is the existence of these activities associated with chang-
es in the number of farms, total agricultural sales, land in
farms, and urban agricultural/local food activities?
The results of Sharp and Jackson-Smith (2010) show
that counties formally organised to support agricultural
economic development with a food policy council, also
have more agricultural business and local food-system
development programs. In the USA, counties with greater
formal organisational development in support of agriculture
are counties with larger populations, greater rural population
densities, and larger numbers of farms. The existence of
these organizations is associated with greater optimism
about the future of local agriculture across key informers.
Renting and Wiskerke (2010) also note that an additional,
increasingly important form of institutional support is in the
growth of urban food policies and strategies to enhance the
availability of healthy and sustainable foods in metropolitan
regions, notably London, Amsterdam, Vancouver, Toronto,
New York and the ‘Food and Climate’ initiative of Malmö.
Food is no longer just the preserve of agricultural and
rural development policy – it is also in the realm of health,
environment departments, and increasingly civil society
The following summary of institutional tools currently being
used to support LFS/SFSC is drawn from Karner et al. (2010),
Progress Consulting Srl (2011), the EU 6th Framework
research project Encouraging Collective Farmers’ Marketing
Initiatives (COFAMI, and a consultation
by the European Commission of stakeholders within the
advisory group for Quality Policy (unpublished).
* Financial incentives with the CAP 2nd Pillar or European
Fund for Rural Development: the fund aims to promote the
‘sustainable development of rural areas.’ Its emphasis is
on improvements to processing and marketing of primary
agricultural products, there is flexibility in how national
governments allocate funds according to sustainability
criteria and this oen creates an uneven playing field for
small farmers and food businesses. Within this family of
instruments, LEADER programmes – through Local Action
Groups - involve many local food initiatives (ENRD, 2012).
* Rules in place might be adapted to the constraints faced by
micro and small-enterprises. This can be the case for:
- Hygiene regulations Designed primarily for agri-
industrial processes. Although the rules allow flexible
interpretation to lighten the burden for traditional
products, this has only been used to a limited extent.
For example, many small slaughterhouses have closed
due to EC meat hygiene regulations and this has limited
capacity for direct sales. ENRD (2012) describes the
flexibility arrangements for small producers put in place
since 2005 in Austria concerning hygiene rules.
- Public ‘green’ procurement directive 2004/18
allows broader criteria for defining which products
are ‘economically advantageous’ and this enables
procurement to take into account ‘environmental
performance’ of particular products – although it does not
acknowledge territorial criteria (IFOAM-EU). Again, these
regulations are interpreted in different ways across and
within member states, for example in Italy where some
local authorities impose a minimum share of products
‘locally sourced’ or of ‘local origin’, or a maximum delay
between harvest and consumption of fresh products in
school meals (ENRD, 2012).
- Trading rules impose proportionately higher costs
of small scale businesses than large ones. Costs from
the following regulations: tax/fiscal; commerce; social
insurance; etc.
* Quality policy and labelling measures are already of impact,
in particular:
- Organic regulations can indirectly support LFS/SFSCs
because organic growers quite oen make use of these
routes to market.
- Territorial and quality branding – PDO/PGI regulations
convey product characteristics to distant markets, mainly
through ‘conventional’ food chains and are oen not
of use to small producers selling locally. PDO/PGIs can
help to create synergies between agri-food and other
rural sectors e.g. tourism. Karner et al. note that many
more food products depend on non-protected territorial
branding, which use labels which are recognised and
trusted by consumers.
* Other policy areas are mentioned by ENRD (2012), in
particular issues related to access to land, improvement
of legal framework for cooperatives and other collective
models relevant to local and short supply chains, external
communication and promotion tools with a view to raise
public awareness about food quality and quality products.
Examples of institutional support at national or regional level
noted in the EC Consultation, ENRD and Progress Consulting
Srl were:
* general support for marketing of products e.g. logistical
assistance for local markets, technical support for creation
of joint marketing platforms, advice when negotiating with
retailers, advice on how to access grants, access to joint
IPTS JRC 80420.indd 38 14/05/13 17:38
facilities for processing and marketing, development of
collective retail outlets managed by producers;
* research and training to develop the necessary knowledge
and skills to influence mindsets and behaviours: examples
are described by ENRD (2012) concerning the training
of producers in communication, market analysis and
commercial management, etc.;
* facilitating or directly undertaking certification or logo/
brand development;
* establishing public-private-partnerships;
* introducing sustainable food within public catering services;
* conducting pilot initiatives, trials, or demonstration cases
for testing of potentially successful initiatives or for the
showcasing of good practices;
* replication and dissemination allow the up-scaling of
successful interventions;
* the provision of financial resources provided in the seed
phase of an initiative is more cost efficient than at later
The general sense from the research noted above is that
there are some existing tools which could be better adapted
to the needs of small farmers and producers.
3.7 Summary and Conclusions
The systematic review of research papers and consultancy
reports has proved a valuable exercise in terms of
consolidating our understanding of the evidence available
regarding the impacts of LFS/SFSCs. The review indicates
that whilst there is a wealth of case studies available, few of
them are comparative across geographical contexts, and so
the transferability of findings is not always clear. Moreover,
distinctions are not clearly drawn between the impacts of
different types of LFS/SFSCs (for example, farmers’ markets
compared to CSA). Whilst we know that the number of LFS/
SFSCs has certainly grown, our review confirms that there
is currently very little data about the geographical spread
and scale of LFS/SFSCs, and little systematic, quantifiable
evidence regarding their contribution to rural economies and
farmer livelihoods. This is due partly to the methodological
difficulties of conducting cross-country comparative
research with small and micro-scale enterprises. The
difficulties include uncertainty as to how to assess impacts
quantitatively, difficulties in comparing qualitative data in a
meaningful manner, and challenges in comparing analyses
from different geographical contexts (Venn et al. 2006).
Moreover, it is extremely difficult to obtain economic data for
many of these schemes: given their size, nature and focus,
many do not routinely collect or publish such data.
In terms of the socio-economic and environmental impacts,
it is noticeable that many papers list general claims about
the benefits of LFS/SFSCs, sometimes without supporting,
or baseline, evidence. Papers quite oen refer back to
some of the early studies which were published when LFS/
SFSCs first became significant phenomena in the agro-food
system. There is a sense that the literature burgeoned in the
early 2000s, and then, with one or two exceptions, became
preoccupied with undertaking many small and localised
case studies, but without significant comparative studies
or conceptual advances. Having said this, there has been a
recent revival of research interest in the sector, with new
research initiatives and publications appearing in press since
the start of this project3. The main social impacts identified
and evidenced to varying degrees include the development
of trusting relationships between producers and consumers,
improvements in social capital and sense of community,
and increased consumer knowledge and understanding of
food, farming and environmental issues, which in some
cases can lead to behaviour change. The economic impacts
of LFS/SFSCs are usually related to rural development
and economic regeneration. There is some evidence that
shortening supply chains leads to increased local sales,
employment and multiplier effects as well as being an
important component of regional tourism product. Some
studies suggest that farmer incomes are increased through
local sales, whereas others suggest that local sales are
not vital for income but are more important for marketing
purposes. Clearly the relative importance of local sales or
SFSCs will vary in relation to enterprise size and scale, as well
as geographical location (e.g. proximity to urban markets or
tourism destinations). It is worth noting that several studies
observe that farmers and producers involved in LFS/SFSCs
are not always ‘profit maximisers’ and may interpret success
not in narrow economic terms, but in terms of their social and
environmental contribution. Regarding the environmental
impacts, it is not possible from the review to generalise that
SFSCs are universally better or worse for the environment
than conventional food supply chains. This is because there
are many different types of SFSCs and these use a variety
of farming methods and logistical/transport arrangements.
Regarding consumer interest in LFS/SFSCs, there is strong
evidence that certain consumers are keen to support them.
The reasons for such support vary in the different countries,
but there is evidence that consumers associate local produce
with higher quality standards, and want to support them for
environmental and ethical (fair trade or support to local
economy) reasons even though their understanding of what
constitutes a ‘local’ product may be unclear. The high level
of interest expressed by consumers is not always translated
into purchase behaviour and research suggests that one of
3 For example, several new FP7 projects have commenced at the time of writing,
which deal with LFS and SFSCs, including: SUPERBFOOD and FOODMETRES which
emphasize SFSCs for urban and metropolitan regions. Also significant is the PUREFOOD
training network (2010-14) for early career researchers in sustainable food chains.
See also, new special issue on ‘civic food networks’ from the Intl Jnl of Sociology of
Agriculture and Food (19)
Literature and Evidence Review
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
the main reasons for this is that consumers either do not
know where to buy local foods or have restricted physical
or financial access to them. In terms of labelling of local
foods, given the lack of clarity regarding what a local food
product actually is, there is clearly potential for consumers
to be misled by labels, particularly in the hospitality industry
where vague indications that menus use ‘locally sourced’
products can sometimes be found. On the other hand, the
research we have reviewed so far does not provide clear
evidence that consumers trust or even read labels – instead
the research indicates that it is the nature of the relationship
between the producer and consumer which is more vital in
assuring trust and confidence in the quality of the product.
The institutional support made available for LFS/SFSCs varies
across countries and regions. The general conclusion from
the available research into this aspect suggests that there
are many institutional tools currently available at EU and
national level which could assist SMEs and micro enterprises,
but these are not applied consistently across the territories
of the EU. Some of the institutional tools available need
further modification in order to reduce administrative and
financial burdens on the enterprises involved in LFS/SFSCs.
There are a number of examples of successful institutional
initiatives (e.g. those described in ENRD (2012)) which can
be further examined to explore their transferability across
EU member states.
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Characteristics of Short Food Supply Chains in the EU
4.1 Introduction
The aim of this chapter is to present an analytical review
of the contents of an illustrative / representative database
of cases of short food supply chains throughout the EU.
We have approached the analysis in three steps: first, we
describe the methodology followed to build the database;
second, we give an overview of the headline data in relation
to all 84 schemes in the database and some preliminary
results per type of SFSC; third, we structure the analysis
into 3 large ‘meta-regions’ as a means of further breaking
it down. Whilst this is rather a crude analysis, the three
regions reflect broadly recognized differences in terms of
agricultural structures and development, food cultures and
SFSC structures (although we acknowledge that there is
great diversity within regions).
4.1.1 Structure of the database
Our intention was to locate as many types of SFSC as
possible across the EU. The SFSC database created as part
of this research is not, and is unlikely ever to be exhaustive;
neither is it statistically representative of the numbers or
geographic distribution of SFSCs across the EU; rather it is
a representative illustration of as many types of schemes
as possible in the time permitted and with the resource
provided. We do not doubt that there are significantly more
individual SFSC schemes operating across the EU than we
have been able to identify. Having said this, we do consider
the breadth of types of schemes identified in the database
to be comprehensive.
The database that was purpose-built for this project consists
of 7 forms to make up one complete entry:
• Overview
• Organisational information
• Production details
• Consumption details
• Contact details
• Justification
• Classification
Each form consists of a mixture of tick boxes and open fields
to allow for detail to be added. It is important to note that not
all fields were completed for each entry; however mandatory
fields were identified in order that at least some comparable
data was held on all schemes. Table 8 summarises the
purpose for which indicators were included in the different
4 For the purpose of this study by 'impact' it is meant 'the effects that the database
examples are trying to archive' (Cf. section 4.3, infra)
4 Characteristics of Short Food
Supply Chains in the EU
Table 8: Four key impacts4 and 11 indicators that make up the comparative analysis
Impacts Indicators
• Farm level economic impact Turnover, profit, financial support
• Regional economic impact Number of employees; number of producers involved; geographic
scale including hectares farmed; where produce is sold
• Consumer awareness Number of customers
• Other aspects Certification; production methods; aims of the scheme (e.g. preserve
heritage varieties)
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Short Food Supply Chains and Local Food Systems in the EU. A State of Play of their Socio-Economic Characteristics.
The intention was that these key impacts and indicators allow
to a better understanding of the organisational, economic
and social aspects of the various types of SFSCs identified
as a result of this research.
The process of identifying schemes initially drew heavily