Sustainable food production

Food is a key element of human health and wellbeing. Right now, food production is under considerable pressures for change originating in the changing needs, values and attitudes of consumers. Tackling the challenges brought about by such change often requires new skills based on research.

The high quality and safety of food products are essential prerequisites for sustainable food production, from primary production to the table. Other factors affecting the quality and safety of food products include their processing, packaging, storage and distribution. Food must be safe for consumers, and its quality must be preserved up to the use-by date.

In addition to food safety and quality, public discussion has increasingly focused on the effects of food production on the climate and natural resources. Attention has also been paid to considerable food wastage, which occurs throughout food systems. While the quality of raw materials used for food, the choice of packaging techniques and appropriate storage temperatures have a significant effect on the amount of food waste, we need action by distributors, retailers and consumers to reduce food wastage.

Animal health also plays a key role in the quality and safety of food. Climate change exposes animals to new diseases, some of which can be transmitted to humans via food. Changes in the living conditions of wildlife can also result in the transmission of their diseases to production animals and, consequently, the food chain. Climate change will pose challenges to the production of safe food for a number of reasons.

Increasingly, consumer choice is guided by sustainability and ethics. More and more, consumers are giving consideration to the welfare of production animals, replacing meat with alternative protein sources, such as game, fish and insects. In the future, more lower-quality raw materials or novel components not suited for human consumption as such will be utilised as feed in sustainable animal production. Such changing practices may affect the quality and safety of meat in a new way.

Sustainable food production in a rapidly changing operating environment requires innovative research to ensure the high quality and safety of food.