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Title: Ecological eating, food ideology and food choice
Author: Holt, G. C.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2678 793X
Awarding Body: The University of Bradford
Current Institution: University of Bradford
Date of Award: 1993
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In a historical and quantitative study British food consumption patterns have been observed. The objective was to give a detailed description of the influence of ecological factors on attitudes to food choice. Food choice has been defined as the interplay of factors affecting the availability and acceptibility of food. Trends which have been identified in the availabilty of food are; the intensification of agriculture, the consolidation of the food industry, and the growth of niche markets. Trends which have been identified in the acceptibility of food are; a growth in manufactured food products, an increased awareness of the health value of food and a rising interest in food production methods with respect to the welfare of livestock and conservation of the environment. Three factors have been identified as being intrinsic to an ecological food ideology; method of food production, level of meat consumption and method of food preparation. The results show that the health value of foods has, to date, been the most significant influence on reducing meat consumption and the consumption of additive-free and organic foods, but strict vegetarianism is strongly connected with attitudes to animal welfare, and the consumption of organic food results also from a perception that organic food has superior taste. The results show also that consumers in the higher socioeconomic groups are most likely to express these influences in purchasing behaviour. However, sufficient interest was shown in welfare and organic foods by the Consumer Attitudes Survey to conclude that these foods now represent 'luxury foods'. n1 Conversely, for the group of organic food consumers in the Organic Survey, conservation of the environment was substantially the most important influence on food choice. In addition, respondentsin the Organic Survey exhibited very high levels of education suggesting that education is a significant factor as well as high income levels in determining purchasing behaviour, and in fact nearly half of the respondents in the Organic Survey were earning less than £250 gross per week. The results suggest that those consumers who are most strongly affected by concern for the environment, have not only made greater changes to their diet in terms of food intake than the national average, but also that these changes are closely aligned with current nutrition goals. In particular, low levels of meat consumption are accompanied by a high intake of fruit, vegetables and wholegrain cereal products. As the Taste Panel study showed, once the expectancy to eat meat at every meal has diminished, so the taste of non-meat products becomes more acceptable. Alternative approaches to agriculture and criteria for the determination of food quality are discussed. Food consumption patterns amongst the organic food consumers were more closely aligned to the potential agricultural output from an extensive ecological system of food production than from the current intensive approach to agriculture based largely on the use of grain for animal feed. The study believes therefore that Government policy should continue to support the Organic Sector, both practicising organic farmers and farmers wishing to convert. The study found little evidence however, to suggest that the very low level of consumption of industry prepared foods observed in the Organic Survey is likely to be adopted by the majority of the population.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available