Identifying Drivers and Enablers of the Sovereign Shift toward a Plant-Based Food Culture: The Case of Freiburg im Breisgau

Jordan Rydman

Affiliation: Albert Ludwigs Universität Freiburg (Freiburg, Germany); University of Cape Town (Cape Town, South Africa)

Keywords: Sovereign Transformation, Plant-based Consumption, Social Resiliency, Ecological Stability, Multidisciplinary Approach, Food Culture, Archive only

Categories: Demetrios Project, News and Views, Humanities, Social Sciences and Law

Languages: English

This Master’s Thesis Project uses a multidisciplinary approach to identify the drivers of a sovereign transformation in the food culture of Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany from traditional to more plant-based consumption. The research is positioned against the key concept of social resiliency as an important indicator of sustainability, requiring improved resilience of food systems as food cultures are disturbed in the face of climate-induced import flow precarity and ecological instability. The project focuses on the adoption of a plant-based food culture as a means for improving social and ecological resilience, considering cultural acceptability as an important indicator of a sovereignly sustainable diet as well as the ecological benefits of plant-based diets compared to diets rich in animal products. Given that transitioning populations toward more plant-based eating appears to be a viable option for improving food security, sovereignty, and sustainability, the research strives to identify which social and cultural factors have underpinned a rapid shift toward a more plant-based food system and culture in Germany, analyzing the case of Freiburg im Breisgau. This mixed-method project follows the grounded theory approach and involves quantitative and qualitative methods including a questionnaire, consumer interviews, and expert interviews. It compares multidisciplinary theoretical frameworks such as the SHIFT economics framework and Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. The results indicate that Freiburg does have a heavily plant-based food culture with most study participants identifying as plant-based. The results showed notable gender differences with women being more likely to be plant-based. Food product attributes reported as desirable by men and women were also visibly gender-patterned. Perception was correlated with behavior in that those who perceived Freiburg as plant-based were more likely to adopt those behaviors themselves. Media was an important factor, impacting perception and information accessibility. A history of environmental activism in the area combined with an understanding of Germany's history of food scarcity appear to underpin an ecologically educated and conscientious populus with a strong culture of social responsibility, realized in the form of plant-based eating. Behavioral transformations were analyzed through the psychological factors of social influence, habit formation, the individual self, feelings and cognition, and tangibility. The intended use for this exploratory research is that any identified factors might guide future confirmatory research or projects on initiating or furthering transformations both in Freiburg and abroad, improving the resilience of cities faced with food system vulnerabilities and climate disturbances

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