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On the merits of plant-based proteins for global food security: Marrying macro and micro perspectives


  • de Boer, Joop
  • Aiking, Harry


This paper aims to demonstrate the importance of protein production for the global environment and to give insight into the way consumers frame the protein part of their meal. Using a macro perspective, it presents a review of the literature on current and future impacts of the nutritional transition that has made animals the chief source of protein in many countries. Protein-related environmental pressure is put into the perspective of a number of vital Earth-system processes whose boundaries have already been overstepped or are under threat of transgression. To inform policy-makers about these linkages a long-term global food security frame is proposed. Using a micro perspective, survey data on consumers reveal that their frames and habits are strongly adapted to the current meat system. Although this system has induced some pickiness about meat as well as uneasiness about meat's animal origin, there is a large psychological distance between consumers and experts in their view of protein sources. It is suggested that a global food security frame may help to bridge this distance by creating overlapping frames, capturing both altruistic aspects and a reasonable measure of self-interest. This may enable a novel protein transition, featuring a greater share of plant-based protein.

Suggested Citation

  • de Boer, Joop & Aiking, Harry, 2011. "On the merits of plant-based proteins for global food security: Marrying macro and micro perspectives," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(7), pages 1259-1265, May.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:ecolec:v:70:y:2011:i:7:p:1259-1265

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Gilland, Bernard, 2002. "World population and food supply: can food production keep pace with population growth in the next half-century?," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 27(1), pages 47-63, February.
    2. Keyzer, M.A. & Merbis, M.D. & Pavel, I.F.P.W. & van Wesenbeeck, C.F.A., 2005. "Diet shifts towards meat and the effects on cereal use: can we feed the animals in 2030?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(2), pages 187-202, November.
    3. Thogersen, John & Olander, Folke, 2002. "Human values and the emergence of a sustainable consumption pattern: A panel study," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 23(5), pages 605-630, October.
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    Cited by:

    1. Austgulen, Marthe H. & Skuland, Silje & Schjøll, Alexander & Alfnes, Frode, 2015. "Consumer readiness to reduce meat consumptions and eat more climate friendly," 143rd Joint EAAE/AAEA Seminar, March 25-27, 2015, Naples, Italy 202757, European Association of Agricultural Economists.
    2. Marthe Austgulen, 2014. "Environmentally Sustainable Meat Consumption: An Analysis of the Norwegian Public Debate," Journal of Consumer Policy, Springer, vol. 37(1), pages 45-66, March.
    3. van Dooren, Corné & Douma, Annely & Aiking, Harry & Vellinga, Pier, 2017. "Proposing a Novel Index Reflecting Both Climate Impact and Nutritional Impact of Food Products," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 131(C), pages 389-398.
    4. van Dooren, C. & Marinussen, Mari & Blonk, Hans & Aiking, Harry & Vellinga, Pier, 2014. "Exploring dietary guidelines based on ecological and nutritional values: A comparison of six dietary patterns," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 36-46.


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