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Efficiency, sufficiency, and consistency for sustainable healthy food

Photo: Yoshihide Nomura, Fried vegetables, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0 generic.
Photo: Yoshihide Nomura, Fried vegetables, Flickr, Creative Commons License 2.0 generic.

This comment article in The Lancet Planetary Health emphasises that food systems research, addressing sustainability and human health, needs to combine three factors equally to inform comprehensive improvement strategies. 

The authors outline the factors as:

  1. Efficiency indicators: such as litre water use per 1000 kcal, or kg greenhouse gas emissions per kg protein.
  2. Sufficiency targeting reduction of total levels of need: the potential for decreasing total overall production and consumption, to address health and/or environmental problems, such as reduced overall calorie intake per person per day.
  3. Consistency of resource use: how and where a scarce resource can be used optimally within a whole food systems context.

Read the full article here (open access).

You might also be interested in this paper: ‘Impacts of Feeding Less Food-Competing Feedstuffs to Livestock on Global Food System Sustainability’, from the same authors.

The FCRN has also examined different understandings of what efficiency means to different stakeholders: take a look at the report “Lean, green, mean, obscene…? What is efficiency? And is it sustainable?”.

You may also be interested in two earlier journal papers by the FCRN’s Tara Garnett which considered three conceptual takes on food security and environmental challenges – that of ‘efficiency’, of ‘demand restraint’, and of ‘system transformation’: see Three perspectives on sustainable food security  and Food sustainability: problems, perspectives and solutions.


Muller, A. and Schader, C., 2017. Efficiency, sufficiency, and consistency for sustainable healthy food. The Lancet Planetary Health, 1(1), pp.e13-e14.

The Lancet Planetary Health is a new, online-only, open access journal in The Lancet’s specialty collection which we reported recently in Fodder here. It differs from The Lancet Global Health by focussing on intergenerational health equity: inviting contemporary research that considers the impacts of humans on natural systems, with the implications for the health of future generations.

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