Original Paper

Food Security

, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp 617-636

First online:

Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

Priority research questions for the UK food system

  • John S. I. IngramAffiliated withEnvironmental Change Institute, Oxford University Centre for the Environment Email author 
  • , Hugh L. WrightAffiliated withConservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge
  • , Lucy FosterAffiliated withDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
  • , Timothy AldredAffiliated withFairtrade Foundation
  • , David BarlingAffiliated withCentre for Food Policy, City University London
  • , Tim G. BentonAffiliated withUK Global Food Security Programme and University of Leeds, School of Biology, University of Leeds
  • , Paul M. BerrymanAffiliated withLeatherhead Food Research
  • , Charles S. BestwickAffiliated withRowett Institute of Nutrition and Health, University of Aberdeen
  • , Alice Bows-LarkinAffiliated withSustainable Consumption Institute and Tyndall Manchester, School of Mechanical, Aerospace and Civil Engineering, University of Manchester
    • , Tim F. BrocklehurstAffiliated withInstitute of Food Research
    • , Judith ButtrissAffiliated withBritish Nutrition Foundation
    • , John CaseyAffiliated withUnilever R&D
    • , Hannah CollinsAffiliated withEconomic and Social Research Council
    • , Daniel S. CrossleyAffiliated withFood Ethics Council
    • , Catherine S. DolanAffiliated withSaid Business School, University of OxfordGreen Templeton College, University of Oxford
    • , Elizabeth DowlerAffiliated withDepartment of Sociology, University of Warwick
    • , Robert EdwardsAffiliated withThe Food and Environment Research Agency
    • , Karen J. FinneyAffiliated withMedical Research Council
    • , Julie L. FitzpatrickAffiliated withMoredun Research InstituteSchool of Veterinary Medicine, College of Medical, Veterinary and Life Sciences, University of Glasgow
    • , Mark FowlerAffiliated withNestle Product Technology Centre York
    • , David A. GarrettAffiliated withSeafish
    • , Jim E. GodfreyAffiliated withR. J. & A. E. Godfrey
    • , Andrew GodleyAffiliated withHenley Centre for Entrepreneurship, University of Reading
    • , William GriffithsAffiliated withSeaWeb
    • , Eleanor J. HoulstonAffiliated withPublic Health, Sheffield City Council
    • , Michel J. KaiserAffiliated withSchool of Ocean Sciences, Bangor University
    • , Robert KennardAffiliated withGraig Producers Organic Livestock Marketing Group, Graig Farm, Dolau, Llandrindod Wells
    • , Jerry W. KnoxAffiliated withCranfield Water Science Institute, Cranfield University
    • , Andrew KuykAffiliated withFood and Drink FederationNational Institute for Agricultural Botany
    • , Bruce R. LinterAffiliated withPepsiCo International Ltd
    • , Jennie I. MacdiarmidAffiliated withRowett Institute of Nutrition & Health, Polwarth Building, Foresterhill, University of Aberdeen
    • , Wayne MartindaleAffiliated withCorporate Social Responsibility Group, Sheffield Business School, Sheffield Hallam University
    • , John C. MathersAffiliated withHuman Nutrition Research Centre, Institute for Ageing and Health, Newcastle University
    • , Daniel F. McGonigleAffiliated withDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
    • , Angela MeadAffiliated withSea and Society, Plymouth Marine Laboratory
    • , Samuel J. MillarAffiliated withCampden BRI
    • , Anne MillerAffiliated withEnvironmental Sustainability Knowledge Transfer Network, Department of Earth Sciences, University of Oxford
    • , Calum MurrayAffiliated withTechnology Strategy Board
    • , Ian T. NortonAffiliated withSchool of Chemical Engineering, University of Birmingham
    • , Stephen ParryAffiliated withYoung’s SeafoodBiosciences KTN, The Roslin Institute
    • , Marilena PollicinoAffiliated withDepartment for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
    • , Thomas E. QuestedAffiliated withWaste & Resources Action Programme (WRAP), The Old Academy
    • , Savvas TassouAffiliated withSchool of Engineering and Design and RCUK Centre for Sustainable Energy Use in Food Chains, Brunel University
    • , Leon A. TerryAffiliated withPlant Science Laboratory, Cranfield University
    • , Richard TiffinAffiliated withCentre for Food Security, Agriculture Building, University of Reading
    • , Pieter van de GraafAffiliated withScottish Government
    • , William VorleyAffiliated withInternational Institute for Environment and Development
    • , Andrew WestbyAffiliated withNatural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich
    • , William J. SutherlandAffiliated withConservation Science Group, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge


The rise of food security up international political, societal and academic agendas has led to increasing interest in novel means of improving primary food production and reducing waste. There are however, also many ‘post-farm gate’ activities that are critical to food security, including processing, packaging, distributing, retailing, cooking and consuming. These activities all affect a range of important food security elements, notably availability, affordability and other aspects of access, nutrition and safety. Addressing the challenge of universal food security, in the context of a number of other policy goals (e.g. social, economic and environmental sustainability), is of keen interest to a range of UK stakeholders but requires an up-to-date evidence base and continuous innovation. An exercise was therefore conducted, under the auspices of the UK Global Food Security Programme, to identify priority research questions with a focus on the UK food system (though the outcomes may be broadly applicable to other developed nations). Emphasis was placed on incorporating a wide range of perspectives (‘world views’) from different stakeholder groups: policy, private sector, non-governmental organisations, advocacy groups and academia. A total of 456 individuals submitted 820 questions from which 100 were selected by a process of online voting and a three-stage workshop voting exercise. These 100 final questions were sorted into 10 themes and the ‘top’ question for each theme identified by a further voting exercise. This step also allowed four different stakeholder groups to select the top 7–8 questions from their perspectives. Results of these voting exercises are presented. It is clear from the wide range of questions prioritised in this exercise that the different stakeholder groups identified specific research needs on a range of post-farm gate activities and food security outcomes. Evidence needs related to food affordability, nutrition and food safety (all key elements of food security) featured highly in the exercise. While there were some questions relating to climate impacts on production, other important topics for food security (e.g. trade, transport, preference and cultural needs) were not viewed as strongly by the participants.


Food security UK food system Post-farm gate activities Stakeholder world views Priority setting Evidence gaps