Mónica Truninger (coord.), João Afonso Baptista, David Evans, Nádia Nunes
Terms like ‘fresh’ and ‘natural’ are key words in the contemporary food industry, deployed in marketing and related commercial contexts in an almost uniformly positive way. Linking fresh and natural in the context of modern agri-food systems is, however, paradoxical as what is sold as ‘fresh’ frequently depends on a series of technological innovations (such as refrigeration and long-distance transportation) that are anything but ‘natural’.
This project focuses on the commercial, environmental and social significance of ‘freshness’ as a central issue in the production and consumption of food in two contrasting national contexts (the UK and Portugal) and in three different commodity sectors (fish, poultry, and fruit and vegetables). It examines the complex social and technological arrangements that underpin the production, circulation and consumption of ‘fresh’ food.
Bringing together the members of three leading European research groups, the project will investigate how ‘freshness’ is enacted across the UK food supply chain (where survey evidence suggests that consumer concerns about quality and freshness are close to the EU average) and in Portugal (where such concerns are well above the European average). The project is funded by the ESRC Grant Ref: ES/N009649/1 and the PI is Prof. Peter Jackson (Sheffield), Co-PI is Dr. David Evans (Manchester), and the International Co-PI is Dr. Monica Truninger (ICS-ULisboa).
Our specific objectives are:
- To describe and understand the (re)configuration of ‘freshness’ in agri-food systems since the emergence of the ‘cold chain’ in the UK and Portugal
- To understand how perceptions of freshness in domestic settings shape commercial practices (among food manufacturers, processors and retailers) and vice versa
- To examine how meanings of freshness are combined and/or traded-off with other qualities of food (such as taste, locality, seasonality, cost and convenience)
- To understand the significance of freshness in contemporary agri-food systems and how it relates to notions of environmental sustainability, public health, food safety and waste.
We also aim to engage a wide range of ‘users’ in our research, including food industry representatives (manufacturers and retailers) and government officials associated with food safety and public health, waste reduction and environmental sustainability. Our work will also be of interest to NGOs and food-related charities (such as WRAP, Sustain and the Food Ethics Council).