Category Archives: Diet and health

What’s Cooking, June 2020

What’s Cooking is an update on all things related to CHEFS: the Culture, Health, Environment, Food and Society research cluster at Sheffield Hallam University. What’s been cooking since our last edition?

In this June 2020 edition, we have updates on recent CHEFS activities, including:

  • research on nutrition in care homes (Lucie Nield), family business dynamics in the catering sector (Rich Telling and Philip Goulding), and agricultural shows as a value creation platform (Caroline Westwood and Phil Crowther);
  • a summary of BMRC colleagues’ work with regional brewers, from Jillian Newton;
  • a call for expressions of interest to get involved with ShefFood, from James Ellerby;
  • a series of webinars aimed at helping the region’s hospitality industry in the context of CV19, organised by James Ellerby and Hospitality colleagues;
  • a call for expressions of interest to explore future collaborative links with La Trobe University for research on socio-cultural dimensions of food and drink, from Jennifer Smith Maguire.

Plus, the usual call for content for the September 2020 edition of What’s Cooking.

Cheers, Jen


Recent CHEFS Activities

Lucie Nield is part of a group of colleagues from SHU, UoS & NHS and Social Care partners who have successfully progressed to a Round 2 submission for an NIHR Research for Social Care bid looking at the effect of good nutrition in residential care homes. The bid is a joint venture using qualitative and quantitative methodologies and process evaluation with the aim of co-designing an intervention. If successful in the next round, work will commence in January 2021 where we will be working closely with our health and social care colleagues.

Richard Telling and Philip Goulding’s article ‘Retaining the adolescent workforce in family businesses’ has been accepted for publication in the Journal of Family Business Management. The article explored the linkage between adolescent work, parent-child relationships and offspring career choice outcomes in a family business context. Findings were derived from 15 semi-structured interviews with members of five Italian families operating catering businesses in Yorkshire (UK). The findings were two-fold: first, that the ‘familiarity’ of the family business impacts on offspring decision making, on one hand providing a safety net and base from which the next generation can explore their career options, and a trapping device which can impede their exit on the other; and second, that negative experiences of adolescent work often have a detrimental impact on parent-child relationships and when this happens ‘escaping’ the family business assumes priority for offspring. The paper contributes to our understanding of the stay/go decision faced by next generation family members and suggests that parent-child relationships are instrumental in understanding this and previous stages of the socialisation process of embedding in the family business.

Phil Crowther and Caroline Westwood (along with Greg Langridge-Thomas from Powys Council) had their article ‘The Royal Welsh Show – the nations true cauldron’ accepted for publication in the Event Management journal.  Using the show as a single case study to really examine the catalytic role events have in the context of networks and knowledge economy and in this case, the impact the show has throughout Wales and beyond.  The show (as many UK agricultural shows), dates back to the early 1900’s, recognised as hugely influential on the development of rural areas, their role is high worth, contributing to significantly improving, husbandry techniques, stock quality and enabling the country to meet the needs for increased food production.  This extensive case study included 43 interviews and 1322 questions in addition to archival research.  Through this research a framework was derived entitled ‘Taxonomy of Platforms’ which demonstrates events such as the Royal Welsh Show are value creation platforms, offering a significant role in cultivating networks, across key industries (food, farming, agricultural innovations) both stakeholder and attendee focused.  Future research which Caroline is undertaking focuses on how these shows are also a stage for ‘families of choice’ to convene, share best practices, educate themselves and socialise.  This next stage of the research will consider partly the value of agricultural shows but also how individuals perceive the events in terms of space and place and the connection they have with certain events within the agricultural events calendar.

From Jillian Newton: Hello to all you fellow CHEFS from the Biomolecular Sciences Research arm, just to let you know what we’ve been up to during lockdown and the sheer madness of remote working. As many of you will know we have over the past 6 years been developing links with local microbrewers, running workshops and meetings helping to understand and develop this research area within the BMRC. Early on in 2020 in the heady days of pre-lockdown myself,  (Dr Jillian Newton), Dr Susan Campbell, Dr Daniel Allwood and Dr Tim Nichol set up a brewing research group, which included Tim’s master student  and my a final year project student. These two students have been working within the BMRC and the NCEFE looking at the beer brewing process and its effect on yeast. Since lockdown, however, we have kept ourselves productive in a written capacity. In the joyous haze of lockdown we have somehow put together:

  • A capital equipment grant for kit to complement our established pilot microbrewery plant at NCEFE, to allow SHU researchers and local brewers access to scientific data about brewing processes and the beers they produce. This would contribute extensively to our engagement with local brewers.
  • An application to the Brewers Research and Education Fund which is funded by the very aptly named ‘Worshipful Company of Brewers’ to help create a central hub for the communication of knowledge transfer, bespoke research, teaching and good practice between the craft ale community and researchers.
  • And finally, we have also applied for a GTA PhD studentship, working with Triple Point brewery, looking at one of the ‘Holy Grails’ of brewing: the scientific basis behind yeast flocculation.

All told a very productive brewing related few weeks.

James Ellerby sits on the steering group of ShefFood, a local cross-sector food partnership. James would like to hear from anyone in CHEFS who would be interested in getting involved with the partnership. A few recent ShefFood updates on the local food system include:

  • Food Works has moved their focus to meal deliveries, serving about 3500 meals to date.
  • Food Banks: the need for food has increased 20%. The increase in food prices is having a big impact (e.g. S2 Food Bank currently spends £2000/week to supplement donations).
  • City Farm Federation/Heeley City Farm: the main focus for local growers has been maximising food production, supporting the increased demand for food cooperatives such as Regather. With the loss of farm visits, school tours etc., city farms are needing to consider longer term solutions. There appears to be a need for improved digital infrastructure, e.g. online resources for virtual tours etc.
  • Regather food cooperative: a current success story in this crisis. Household subscriptions for their veg box scheme went from 320 to 650/week in just five days. They have accelerated their own farm development to supplement this and the loss of their events business.
  • Moor Market fruit and veg traders have had some great examples of pivoting businesses and moving to home delivery.
  • Sustainable Food Cities have rebranded as Sustainable Food Places. Some great case studies of other food partnerships/cities and their reaction to the crisis. See:

Please let James know ( if anyone is interested in getting involved in/supporting any of the above issues. If anyone is currently working on anything that may be of use to the partnership/local food businesses please do let him know.

James Ellerby and colleagues from the Hospitality Business Management group in Sheffield Business School have organised a webinar series, ‘Covid-19 Support Resources for Hospitality,’ delivered through the ScaleUp 360 programme. The team have developed a series of completely free online resources, available to businesses within the Sheffield City Region. The resources will be delivered as a series of online webinars and will included a blend of taught content, panel discussions and live Q&As. The initial list of topics currently includes:

  • 04/06 – Lessons from the past: restaurant recovery in a global recession
  • 11/06 – The future of service in hospitality
  • 17/06 – Hospitality revenue management for the Covid-19 recovery
  • 25/06 – Innovation: re-think, re-visit, reinvent – Developing resilient hospitality business models 02/07 – Food supply chain challenges and solutions
  • 09/07 – Food and business ethics: making the ‘right’ decisions for the future

Details of each event will be available here. For any further information about the hospitality webinars please contact James Ellerby (

Please note: in order to participate, businesses must register (free) with the ScaleUp 360 programme via an expression of interest form, and a short registration meeting via a phone call with a business growth coach at ScaleUp 360. Registered businesses are then eligible to an additional range of fully funded enterprise and entrepreneurial skills development opportunities, including Business Workshops; Mentoring; Incubation Support and Networking; Design and Prototyping; 1:1 Business Advice. ScaleUp 360 is part-financed by the England European Regional Development Fund as part of the European Structural and Investment Funds Growth Programme 2014-2020, and is run in partnership with Sheffield Hallam University, Barnsley Business and Innovation Centre, Doncaster Chamber of Commerce, and East Midlands Chamber of Commerce.

Jennifer Smith Maguire, in collaboration with Jennifer Frost and Warwick Frost of La Trobe University (LTU), was awarded a 2020 SHU-LTU Collaborative Research Seed Grant. The bid had three objectives: (1) to progress our collaborative research on cultural institutions and wellbeing (initiated through a 2019 LTU-SHU Collaborative Research Seed Grant); (2) to scope a cross-cultural comparative project on wine tourism and the social marketing of terroir; and (3) to develop a cross-university food/drink/culture research network, by promoting CHEFS and SBS expertise to LTU colleagues, and identifying potential areas for collaborative research. The funding was to allow Jen to travel to La Trobe for an intense week of writing, research scoping and networking in June 2020. The global pandemic has put the trip temporarily on hold, but objective 3 is nevertheless underway! To that end: this is a call for expressions of interest from SHU-based CHEFS colleagues who want to develop links with LTU colleagues, with a focus on future collaborative research on the socio-cultural dimensions of food and drink. Please submit your information through this google form. As part of the SHU-LTU global partnership, there have already been two rounds (2019, 2020) of collaborative research seed grants, and there is currently a call for joint PhD proposals. The google form is intended to help with proactively building a CHEFS/SHU-LTU research network, to enhance the likelihood of success in bidding for these (and other, external) funds, and developing productive, collegial partnerships. Please get in touch with Jen if you have any questions (


Call for content for the next edition of What’s Cooking

The next edition of What’s Cooking will be September 2020. Please send content (research updates, calls for expression of interest, relevant calls for papers/conference/event announcements) to by Thursday 27 August.


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Sustainable Diets and closing the intention–behaviour gap


by Kate Platts and Cecile Morris

Diets inextricably link human health and environmental sustainability. Evidence suggests that diets that place the least burden on the planet’s natural resources are also those which have the greatest benefit for human health. Beef cattle and dairy farming globally has a demonstrable detrimental impact on the environment, and finding ways to mitigate environmental risks through modified food consumption has become a key area of study.

In this blog, we discuss the ‘Planetary Health Diet’ launched in early 2019 and introduce our on-going research in the area of consumer attitudes towards sustainable diets. We examine the controversial response from the agricultural and nutrition sectors as well as the media. We also explore UK consumer behaviour in relation to meat and dairy consumption, touching on drivers of meat consumption and barriers to dietary change but also recent market trends. Thinking about the plethora of mainstream media articles reporting on climate change and the need to act now, we ask ourselves: What support is available to those who want to adopt a ‘greener’ diet? What resources would help those struggling to make dietary changes and effectively close the intention-behaviour gap?

If you feel this is of relevance to you, read on!

What do we know so far?

The impact of food systems on the environment

The production of food for human consumption has a significant impact on the environment in which it is produced and on the planet as a whole. It is likely to be the single biggest cause of global environmental change today, with an estimated 20-30% of all anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions emanating from global food systems. However, not all agricultural food systems are created equal. The environmental impact of cattle rearing and farming are by far the biggest contributors to methane (CH4) and nitrous oxide (N2O) emissions – the most potent and damaging to the earth’s atmosphere. Efforts to increase food chain efficiency can help mitigate the problem but reducing consumption of GHG-intensive foods, while also meeting health goals, is now seen as key. In this, food consumers have a leading role to play in influencing food production and consumption practices, especially in developed countries where food is abundantly available.

Sustainable diets

The term ‘sustainable diet’ has been coined to describe diets with ‘low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to healthy life for present and future generations’, thus signalling an inextricable link between environmental sustainability and human health. While food system-related climate change is undoubtedly a great threat to the planet, the fact remains that 821 million people around the world are undernourished, with 770 million experiencing severe food and nutrition insecurity. Worldwide, the picture is one of gross inequalities with meat and dairy consumption disproportionately concentrated in westernised, developed countries. In this respect, sustainable diets become particularly complex when geographical, social and cultural contexts are considered, and healthy diets do not always necessarily equal environmentally sustainable ones. Finding simple solutions to these deeply complex issues is challenging. Nevertheless, attempts have been made to define global diets that are both ‘healthy’ and ‘sustainable’. The ‘Planetary Health Diet’ proposed by the EAT-Lancet Commission in 2019, attempts to synthesise and distil the research of 37 leading scientists from various disciplines, including human health, agriculture, political sciences and environmental sustainability, into simple food-based dietary guidelines for the global population. It is the first report of its kind to attempt to set universal scientific targets. It recommended a major dietary shift towards fruits, vegetables and legumes and away from meat and dairy consumption, which its authors assert will ease pressure on natural systems and avert 10-11 million deaths per year from non-communicable diseases. However, recognising the burden of hunger and undernutrition in many low- and middle-income countries, the Planetary Health Diet focuses primarily on reducing excessive meat consumption in wealthier continents such as Europe, North America and Australia.

The response to the Planetary Health Diet

The Planetary Health Diet has not been universally endorsed. The Sustainable Food Trust said the report fell short due to ‘a fundamental lack of agricultural understanding’ with some of the main dietary recommendations being ‘incompatible with the food production outcomes of truly sustainable farming systems’.  The Agriculture & Horticulture Development Board UK said that ‘farming, in particular dairy and red meat…makes best use of naturally occurring assets to feed a growing population’, and that red meat and dairy products are ‘an important nutritional part of a healthy, balanced diet.’ Nevertheless, many applauded its publication and a report by the UK Food, Farming & Countryside Commission recommended moving to a more plant-based diet, encouraging people to ‘buy healthy’ and empowering communities to shape and drive their local food systems in a sustainable way. Despite the mixed reviews that the EAT-Lancet Commission report and its proposed Planetary Health Diet have received in mainstream media, the coverage (BBC, 2019a; BBC 2019b; CNN, 2019; Guardian, 2019; New York Times, 2019) will have raised public awareness of the issue. While it seems unlikely that British consumers will adopt, en masse, a vastly meat- and dairy-reduced diet, the tide does appear to be turning towards different dietary patterns in a nation of increasingly conscientious consumers.

Consumer behaviour in the UK

The relationship between dietary choice and climate change may not be obvious, and scepticism about the link between climate change and dietary choice is widespread. Nevertheless, there appears to be a groundswell of support for reducing of meat and dairy intake amongst the British general public. According to a 2019 YouGov poll, while the vast majority of British consumers (73%) eat meat, 14% report that they are following a ‘flexitarian’ diet, which can be described as semi-vegetarian with only the occasional inclusion of meat or fish. Furthermore, 69% of flexitarians and 26% of meat-eaters who do not currently identify as flexitarians report that they’d like to cut down on the amount of meat they eat. Some research suggests that environmental concerns are generally ranked lowest behind animal welfare and health amongst people considering the benefits of a plant-based diet. However, around 83% of UK adults claim to have recently bought food or drinks with ethical certifications, with 38% citing environmental concerns as the primary reason for doing so.

Retail data too show that consumer purchasing habits in the UK are changing, and that meat and dairy substitutes are increasingly popular amongst both vegetarians and active meat-reducers, perceived as both healthy and easy to prepare by adopters. This is something that Quorn, the market-leader in the meat-substitute market, has capitalised on with a new ‘healthy protein, healthy planet’ campaign in 2019, targeting consumers who care about both the health and sustainability agendas. Provision of dairy-reduction information and campaign messages in the UK come predominantly from not-for-profit groups such as Veganuary and the Vegan Society. Campaigns such as ‘Plate up for the Planet – eat to save the world’ position themselves as campaigns for sustainable diets with a strong focus on environmental issues and animal welfare. However, we lack research on how peoples’ intentions and actual behaviours are influenced as a result.

Barriers to closing the intention-behaviour gap for dietary change

There appears to be growing acceptability and accessibility for meat- and dairy-reduced products. Yet, significant barriers exist, even for those motivated to move towards a more sustainable diet. Closing the intention-behaviour gap for dietary change—which is central to individual and planetary health—requires a better understanding of the socio-cultural contexts of individuals’ dietary behaviours. Meat attachment is deeply entrenched in western societies, driven by the historical, social and cultural importance of eating meat. Far from being a result of purely rational decision-making, human behaviour is the result of an intricate interplay between habits, automatic responses to the environment, conscious choice and calculation, and the influence of complex social and cultural values. Thus, an individual may fully intend to reduce meat and dairy consumption yet find themselves unable or unwilling in practice to make the necessary changes.

As such, closing the intention-behaviour gap doesn’t just require a better understanding of intentions and behaviours; it requires better forms of support to enable people to enact dietary changes that support sustainability. Unlike with other positive behaviour changes, there is currently no easily accessible support mechanism for people wishing to reduce meat and dairy intake. This is where our research comes in. We are currently working to identify factors that can influence the reduction of meat and dairy intake, and the mechanisms that would best support individuals and empower them to effect sustainable dietary changes. 

How you can help

We are carrying out research on sustainable diets, and you can get involved. We have developed a baseline survey to try and model attitudes and behaviours towards sustainable diets based on elements of the Theory of Planned Behaviour as well as the Self-Determination Theory. Beyond this, we are also piloting small scale interventions aiming to support behaviour change in people who wish to reduce their meat and dairy intake. The data acquisition part of this project will be live until August 2020. You can get involved by filling in our survey or contacting the principal investigator: Dr Cecile Morris ( 

About the authors:

This blog is based on MSc research (‘Sustainable Diets: Closing the Intention—Behaviour Gap’) by Ms Kate Platts (, under the supervision of Dr Cecile Morris ( in the Department of Service Sector Management, Sheffield Business School of Sheffield Hallam University.

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