Delivering “less but better” meat in practice—a case study of a farm in agroecological transition


Eating “less but better” meat can be a strategy to guide meat consumption in Western or high-income countries towards sustainability, but what “better” means depends on the perspective. Multiple studies and reports suggest that agroecological farming systems could contribute to a broad range of sustainability benefits, but few studies have examined the implications for people and nature following trade-offs between sustainability priorities at the farm level. Therefore, this study explored the effects on a broad range of sustainability themes following agroecological transition on a case farm in east-central Sweden.

We applied a novel mixed-methods approach, combining the indicator-based SMART-Farm tool with additional quantitative and qualitative analysis of the farm’s climate impact, contribution to global food security, economic performance, and working conditions. The results showed improvements for aspects within environmental, social, economic, and governance-related sustainability dimensions, with corroborating results across methods. The case farm thus served as an example of transition to a more sustainable production system, but as expected, there were both trade-offs and synergies between sustainability aspects. Negative effects were found for economic aspects at the farm and societal level.

For this case, one may conclude that “better” meat production both supports and depends on, a more sustainable farm; but that “better” meat and a more sustainable farm cannot be viewed in isolation from the wider food system. Also, “better” can be described by several states along a transition pathway. Key contributions of the study are threefold, a) articulation of the links between agroecology and the concept “less but better,” b) empirically demonstrating synergies and trade-offs in striving for more sustainable meat production, and c) a novel methodological approach for sustainability assessment.


Theme affiliation: Food
Link to centre authors: Resare Sahlin, Kajsa
Publication info: Resare Sahlin, K., Carolus, J., von Greyerz, K., Ekqvist, I., Röös, E. 2022. Delivering “less but better” meat in practice—a case study of a farm in agroecological transition. Agronomy for Sustainable Development.