The transformation of our food systems towards a more sustainable production and consumption is seen as one of the most important starting points to achieve the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Since meat production largely contributes to the most important global environmental problems like loss of biodiversity, climate change, disruption of the nitrogen cycle (de Boer and Aiking, 2019, Leip et al., 2015) the reduction of meat consumption in high meat-eating countries is regarded by the UN and the IPCC as an important leverage point to achieve these global agreements (IPCC ,2019; UN, 2019)

Besides environmental issues, excessive meat consumption has been known since several years for causing health problems like cardiovascular diseases, diabetes type II and obesity (IARC, 2015; Wang et al., 2016). Current consumption quantities especially in western countries, however, still exceed recommendations of health and nutrition organizations. In Austria, the country of concern in this project, an average of 63.4 kg meat per person is annually consumed (AMA, 2019) instead of the 22 kg per person per year recommended by health organizations (WHO, DGE, ÖGE, 2017).

Several states in Europe like the Netherlands, or Denmark started to adopt strategies and founded alliances to implement the so-called protein transition, which aims the stepwise reduction of animal-based protein consumption and the increase of alternative, mainly plant-based protein consumption.

In order to contribute to the protein transition in Austria, the doctoral project aims to provide a better understanding of the current stage of the transition and to elaborate options for its realization and acceleration in consideration of synergies and trade-offs to the SDGs.

Theoretical frameworks that will be applied are frequently used transition frameworks in research on agro-food systems, the Multi-Level-Perspective (MLP) (Geels, 2002 and 2012) and the Transition Management Cycle (Loorbach, 2010). While the first framework highlight interlinkages between technological, economic, political and cultural dynamics of change processes to understand how change happens, the transition management cycle aims to support system transformation and takes into account actors’ capacity of triggering institutional transformation. 

Figure 1: A dynamic multi-level perspective on system innovations modified after (Geels, 2002)

This doctoral study is conducted within the context of the transdisciplinary research project UniNEtZ. In the project 19 Austrian partner institutions are collaborating in order to improve the implementation of the SDGs in Austria. The aim of the project is to recommend evaluated options for policy implementation, considering synergies and tradeoffs of the diverse SDG targets. The special focus of the doctoral project lies on the contribution to SDG2 “End hunger, achieve sustainable agriculture, as well as healthy and more sustainable nutrition”.

AMA (2019): Entwicklung des Pro-Kopf-Verbrauches von Fleisch inkl. Geflügel gesamt in Österreich.

De Boer and Aiking, 2019: Strategies towards healthy and sustainable protein consumption: A transition framework at the level of diets. Dishes and dish ingredients. Amsterdam. Food Quality and Preference.

DGE (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Ernährung) (2017): Vollwertig essen und trinken nach den 10 Regeln der DGE.

Geels, Frank W. (2002): Technological transitions as evolutionary reconfiguration processes: A multi-level
perspective and a case-study, in: Research Policy 31(8/9), S. 1257–1274.

Geels, Frank W. (2012): The multi-level perspective on sustainability transitions: Responses to seven criticisms.
In: Environmental Innovation and Societal Transitions 1, S. 24–40.

IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change), 2019. Climate Change and Land. An IPCC Special Report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems.

IARC, 2015. IARC Monographs evaluate consumption of red meat and processed meat 2.

Leip Adrian, Gilles Billen, Josette Garnier, Bruna Grizzetti, Luis Lassaletta, Stefan Reis, David Simpson, Mark A Sutton, Wim de Vries, Franz Weiss, Henk Westhoek (2015): Impacts of European livestock production: nitrogen, sulphur, phosphorus and greenhouse gas emissions, land-use, water eutrophication and biodiversity. Environmental Research Letters, Volume 10, Number 11.

Loorbach D. 2010: Transition Management for Sustainable Development: A Prescriptive, Complexity-Based Governance Framework. Governance: An International Journal of Policy, Administration, and Institutions Vol. 23, No. 1.

ÖGE (Österreichische Gesellschaft für Ernährung) (2017): 10 Ernährungsregeln der ÖGE. 

United Nations (2019): Global Sustainable Development Report 2019: The Future is Now Science for Achieving Sustainable Development, (United Nations, New York,2019).

Wang, X., Lin, X., Ouyang, Y.Y., Liu, J., Zhao, G., Pan, A., Hu, F.B., 2016. Red and processed meat consumption and mortality: dose–response meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Public Health Nutr. 19, 893–905.