Levelling foods for priority micronutrient value can provide more meaningful environmental footprint comparisons
Katz-Rosene R, 2023, Levelling foods for priority micronutrient value can provide more meaningful environmental footprint comparisons, communications Earth & Environment
A growing literature in Life Cycle Assessment seeks to better inform consumers, food policymakers, food supply chain actors, and other relevant stakeholders about how individual foods contribute to sustainable diets. One major challenge involves accurately capturing potential trade-offs between nutritional provision and environmental impacts associated with food production. In response, food system sustainability literature has turned increasingly to nutritional Life Cycle Assessment, which assesses the environmental footprints of different foods while accounting for nutritional value. Here we provide examples that show how environmental footprints based on a priority micronutrient-focused functional unit can provide nutritionally meaningful insights about the complexities involved in sustainable food systems. We reinforce the idea that there are limitations in using single-value nutrition-environment scores to inform food guidance, as they do not adequately capture the complex multi-dimensionality and variation involved in healthy and sustainable food systems. In our discussion we highlight the need for future agri-food sustainability assessments to pay attention to regional nutritional and environmental variation within and between commodities, and to better interpret trade-offs involved in food substitutions.