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Eating green or eating meat? Eating crickets or eating beef? Sustainable food consumption behavior in Vietnam and Switzerland

Applicant Brunner Thomas
Number 203324
Funding scheme Resource not found: '8595bf37-0545-46ef-8729-36f87f6b0611'
Research institution Hochschule für Agrar-, Forst- und Lebensmittelwissenschaften HAFL Berner Fachhochschule BFH
Institution of higher education Berne University of Applied Sciences - BFH
Main discipline Applied psychology
Start/End 01.10.2021 - 30.09.2024
Approved amount 248'059.00
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All Disciplines (2)

Applied psychology

Keywords (6)

Sustainable food consumption; Consumer behavior; Food; Meat consumption; Edible insects; Food Waste

Lay Summary (German)

Grün essen? Nachhaltiges Ernährungsverhalten in Vietnam und der Schweiz.Unser Ernährungsverhalten hat einen grossen Einfluss auf unsere Gesundheit, aber auch auf unsere Umwelt. In diesem Projekt wird das Ernährungsverhalten der Bevölkerung in Vietnam und der Schweiz untersucht und verglichen. Gerade aus dem kulturellen Vergleich werden die Treiber des eigenen Ernährungsverhaltens sichtbar.
Lay summary

Die Reduktion des Fleischkonsums ist einer der grössten Hebel, um unsere Ernährung nachhaltiger zu gestalten. Alternativen gibt es schon viele und immer mehr kommen neu dazu: Vom Vegi-Burger und dem «Geschnetzelten», das kaum von echtem Fleisch zu unterscheiden ist, bis hin zu Lebensmittel mit Insekten, z.B., verarbeitet als Proteinriegel. Auch einfach mehr Gemüse essen und etwas weniger Fleisch wäre eine Möglichkeit. Ein weiterer starker Hebel, wo man ansetzen kann, um die Ernährung nachhaltiger zu machen, ist ganz einfach, weniger noch geniessbare Lebensmittel wegzuwerfen. Rund ein Drittel aller Lebensmittel geht auf dem Weg vom Acker bis zum Privathaushalt verloren.

Eigentlich ist klar, was zu tun ist, aber offenbar ändern Menschen ihre Gewohnheiten nur schwerfällig. Ziel dieses Projekts ist es, herauszufinden, wie man diese Verhaltensänderungen vereinfachen kann. Was würde Menschen motivieren, was steht ihnen im Weg eine nachhaltigere Ernährung umzusetzen?

Mit sozialwissenschaftlichen Methoden wie Interviews und Umfragen sollen diese Fragen beantwortet werden. Vietnam und die Schweiz sind sich in Bezug auf Fleischkonsum und Lebensmittelverschwendung ähnlich, unterscheiden sich aber stark in ihren Traditionen und Kulturen. Im Vergleich von unterschiedlichen Kulturen werden Ernährungsgewohnheiten und das, was sie beeinflusst besonders sichtbar.

Direct link to Lay Summary Last update: 30.08.2021

Responsible applicant and co-applicants

Gesuchsteller/innen Ausland



During the past 50 years, the global food dietary pattern has shifted remarkably to unhealthy diets that are high in animal protein but insufficient in fiber. This dietary transition creates substantial burden on not only public health but also the environment. Imbalanced diets are among the key reasons for the prevalence of obesity, as evidenced by nearly 2.1 billion overweight or obese adults worldwide (Willett et al., 2019). Our current dietary choices are one of the primary drivers of climate change, biodiversity loss, and natural resource degradation. Unbalanced diets that favor meat are linked with large greenhouse gas emissions and therefore pose a considerable risk to the environment compared to plant-based diets (Willett et al., 2019).To achieve a sustainable food system, behavioral changes in food consumption are urgently needed. Cutting down meat intake and switching to plant-based foods such as vegetables is a solution for improved health and a better environment (Hartmann and Siegrist, 2017). Consuming insect-based food is another avenue to achieve a sustainable diet; such foods have higher production efficiencies as well as smaller ecological footprints compared to those of livestock meat (Van Huis et al., 2013, Deroy et al., 2015, Xiaoming et al., 2010). Reducing household food waste helps improve food security and eliminate the environmental impacts induced by our food system. While the ways to change our current food consumption are clear, we are yet to answer the question “how may we facilitate those changes effectively”? Understanding this challenge and responding to it requires comprehensive knowledge of the barriers and motivators associated with changing consumer behavior in sustainable food consumption. This project will address these aspects.Vietnam and Switzerland differ in culture and the level of economic development. Vietnam represents for emerging economies with a collectivistic culture. In contrast, Switzerland is a typical developed country, where the individualistic paradigm is dominant. These differences might lead to the inhomogeneity in attitudes, perception and behavior in food consumption between the two countries, as documented by previous cross-culture studies (Schroeder et al., 2007). Nevertheless, the two countries are experiencing a similar problem with unsustainable food choices and handling. Annual meat intake per capita in Switzerland and Vietnam is between 50 to 54 kgs (Hansen, 2018, BLV,2020), being far above the recommended level of 15.7 kgs from the Lancet Commissions. Vegetable consumption in both countries is also inadequate (BLV, 2020, Haneri et al, 2019). Food waste from households is another concern. In Switzerland, households are responsible for nearly half of the total avoidable food losses (Beretta et al., 2013). In Vietnam, urban households’ food waste occupied 31.7 % of total waste (Nguyen et al., 2020b). Based on the evidence above, one can expect adverse health and environmental consequences of current food choices in the two countries. Research on consumer behavior in sustainable food consumption is crucial to inform the development of strategic responses to unsustainable dietary choices in Switzerland and Vietnam.For the purposes of this research, sustainable food consumption is defined as the consumption and handling of foods that are not only healthy but also environmentally friendly. Sustainable food consumption covers multiple practices, ranging from shopping, cooking, and storage to consumption and disposal. Given the scope of this project, we focus on three practices: 1) consuming more vegetables and less meat, 2) accepting insects as a food source, and 3) reducing food waste. These three practices reflect ecological behaviors in food choice and food handling, both of which are emerging global issues.This project will address three key research gaps. Firstly, empirical studies mainly focus on a single behavior, such as purchasing local food (Bianchi and Mortimer, 2015) and handling food waste (Aschemann-Witzel et al., 2018). They therefore fail to draw a broad and complex picture of sustainable food consumption behavior. Research that investigates multiple sustainable practices and their determinants like Tobler et al. (2011) is scant. To fill this gap, this project investigates three sustainable behaviors, as mentioned above. However, our work differs from Tobler et al. (2011). While these scholars consider the intention to reduce meat intake and the consumption of vegetables as two separate behaviors, we consider the correlation between the two since meat and vegetables can substitute one another. Secondly, though culture is well documented as a key driver of food choice (Schroeder et al., 2007), cross-cultural analysis regarding various green behaviors is lacking. Note that some attempts have been made to compare insect-eating behavior between an Asian and Western country (Hartmann et al., 2015, Brunner and Nuttavuthisit, 2020). However, little is known about how culture determines the intention to reduce meat intake and food waste. This project is among very few cross-cultural studies that identify how culture and level of economic development shape ecological practices in the food domain. Thirdly, as suggested by Hartmann and Siegrist (2017), the application of experimental method in sustainable food consumption research is limited. By employing experimental designs to predict consumer acceptance of insect-based foods and food waste behavior, we contribute to the existing literature in sustainable food consumption. Therefore, the overall aim of this proposed project is to provide evidence-based recommendations to promote positive behavioral changes in food consumption that will result in improvements to health and the environment in Vietnam and Switzerland. To achieve this goal, we propose four specific objectives:1) Explore sustainability-oriented consumer perception and behavior regarding sustainable food consumption practices;2) Model changes/trends in vegetable and meat consumption;3) Investigate the acceptance of insect-based food products; and4) Analyze consumer behavior pertaining to food waste reduction. We plan to carry out four sub-studies, each serving a key objective. These four studies will follow the exploratory sequential mixed methods approach (Creswell, 2013), in which data collection begins with the qualitative phase (Study 1), followed by the quantitative phase (Studies 2 to 4). Study 1 will provide a preliminary understanding of the three chosen sustainable practices. Furthermore, the findings from this study will guide the development of instruments to be used in the following studies (Studies 2,3, 4). We expect that integrating the qualitative and quantitative approaches will allow us to illustrate deeper and more meaningful insights on green behavior. These findings will, in turn, enable us to formulate effective political and social recommendations to transform consumer behavior toward sustainable consumption in Vietnam and Switzerland.