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Consumers and Food Miles

Listed author(s):
  • Sirieix, L.
  • Grolleau, G.
  • Schaer, B.

Previous research has extensively studied environmental implications of conventional and globalized food supply chain. Local food supply chains are supposed to reduce the environmental impacts of "food miles", the distance that foodstuff travels between the production location and the consumption marketplace. However, if researchers, environmental decision-makers and activists are convinced of the importance of 'food miles', there is a lack of understanding about whether and how end consumers perceive food miles. This paper therefore fills this gap by investigating the perceptions of food miles by French consumers. The first section explores the different types of distances between food and consumers. The second section presents the results of a qualitative study conducted in France. Two sessions of focus groups were held to better understand consumers' perceptions of food miles. Results show that most consumers are not aware of food miles. Focus groups were followed by individual interviews with the particular group of local organic food consumers, supposed to be more environmentally concerned than others. Again, results show that most consumers buy and consume local food for other reasons than reducing food miles. The third section deals with the reasons why consumers do not seem concerned by food miles, and discusses the concepts of "bliss ignorance", perceived efficiency, and social dilemmas. ...French Abstract : Les études sur les conséquences de la globalisation des filières agro-alimentaires sur l'environnement se multiplient, et les réseaux alternatifs locaux ayant pour but de réduire les intermédiaires entre les producteurs et les consommateurs sont présentés comme permettant un retour à une agriculture et un système de consommation durables. Plus précisément ces réseaux ont, entre autres, pour but de réduire l'impact environnemental des "food miles", ou distance parcourue par les produits alimentaires entre le lieu de production et les lieux de consommation. Ce concept de "food miles" est utilisé comme un indicateur de développement durable et de plus en plus comme un outil de communication à destination des consommateurs. Cependant, si les chercheurs, décideurs ou activistes dans le domaine de l'environnement semblent convaincus de l'importance des "food miles", aucune étude n'a été menée afin de savoir si et comment les consommateurs perçoivent les "food miles" et sont susceptibles d'en tenir compte dans leur processus de choix des produits. C'est donc l'objet de cet article, qui s'attache à mettre en évidence les perceptions des food miles par les consommateurs en France grâce à une étude qualitative. La première partie présente les différents types de distance perçue entre les consommateurs et les produits alimentaires. Cette distance perçue peut favoriser un certain désintérêt de la part des consommateurs vis à vis des produits alimentaires et de la façon dont ils sont produits ; à l'opposé elle peut être à l'origine de préoccupations croissantes -environnementales, sociales ou plus individuelles telles que les préoccupations santé- et expliquer le besoin de re-créer des liens perdus avec les produits et les producteurs.

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Paper provided by UMR MOISA : Marchés, Organisations, Institutions et Stratégies d'Acteurs : CIHEAM-IAMM, CIRAD, INRA, Montpellier SupAgro - Montpellier, France in its series Working Papers MOISA with number 200703.

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Date of creation: 2007
Handle: RePEc:umr:wpaper:200703
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  1. D Rigby & S Brown, 2003. "Organic Food and Global Trade: Is the Market Delivering Agricultural Sustainability?," The School of Economics Discussion Paper Series 0326, Economics, The University of Manchester.
  2. Julie A. Caswell & Eliza M. Mojduszka, 1996. "Using Informational Labeling to Influence the Market for Quality in Food Products," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(5), pages 1248-1253.
  3. Jack Kloppenburg & John Hendrickson & G. Stevenson, 1996. "Coming in to the foodshed," Agriculture and Human Values, Springer;The Agriculture, Food, & Human Values Society (AFHVS), vol. 13(3), pages 33-42, June.
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