Sustainability analyses and assessments for the food industry

We critically analyse, evaluate and reflect on sustainability in the food system from production to consumption and develop context-specific strategies for sustainable development - for a more sustainable food industry.

In our interdisciplinary team, we develop solution approaches and decision-making bases for a more sustainable food industry at product, process and system level. These are based on qualitative and quantitative sustainability analyses and assessments. Our focus is on assessing the environmental and social dimensions of sustainability. With our activities:

  • we support, for example, food processors in the development of sustainable food,  
  • we help organisations in the food industry to develop their sustainability strategy, or 
  • we work with policy makers and civil society actors to develop recommendations for more sustainable local food systems.  

In our research and consultancy projects, we apply a broad set of qualitative and quantitative analysis and evaluation methods from the social and natural sciences. Where necessary, we develop innovative assessment approaches tailored to the issue at hand. Furthermore, with the help of participatory approaches, we develop relevant research questions and sustainable solutions together with actors in food systems. In this way, we aim to increase acceptance of structural change and jointly shape a socially just, liveable and environmentally sustainable future. 
Overall, we are contributing to the social and ecological transformation of the food system.


Quantitative assessment methods

  • Life cycle assessments at product and process level 

  • Material flow analyses of material and energy flows in the food industry 

  • Calculations of the food-related per capita environmental footprint 

  • Referencing life cycle assessment results in the food industry at local and global ecosystem impact boundaries

Qualitative research methods

  • Qualitative (expert) interviews and group discussions, participant observation, discourse analysis. 
  • Participatory research methods involving various actors, such as consumers and citizens, companies and start-ups, policy-makers and NGOs.


Current projects

In the project, we are researching consumer behaviour for the development of strategic measures for sustainable eating habits in Switzerland and Vietnam. This requires a comprehensive knowledge of barriers and motivators associated with behavioural change towards sustainable consumption. Topics here include the reduction of meat consumption and food waste as well as the consumption of meat alternatives, such as insects. The project is being carried out jointly with the Vietnam National University of Agriculture.

Duration: 2021–2024

In this project, we are quantifying the food flows in the food system of the city of Bern and estimating the shares of regionally and/or sustainably produced food. We are also estimating the food waste flows at the level of the sales channels in the urban food system and modelling the production potential of regional agriculture under the current and a location-adapted production intensity. In addition, we are developing strategies and recommendations for action for a more sustainable food system in Bern that guarantees the regenerative capacity of natural resources. In particular, we are developing solution strategies to enable households with lower incomes to have access to sustainable and healthy food from the region. The project is a cooperation project with the Centre for Development and Environment (CDE) of the University of Bern and the Bernese Department for Environmental Protection.

Duration: 2022–2024

A sustainable lifestyle within the limits of natural resources in terms of housing and diet is not equally feasible for all city dwellers. To achieve structural change, we therefore see social niche innovations such as urban villages, which want to shape their own lifestyles and live sustainably, as indispensable. In the Urban Future Lab Webergut Zollikofen, we want to co-creatively explore a good life within a consumption corridor that enables one-planet living. The project is in collaboration with BFH-AHB, Urbanen Dörfern and the Berner Bio-Offensive, with additional financial support from the Federal Office for Spatial Development ARE.

Duration: 2021–2022

Whey as a by-product of cheese production has a high physiological nutritional value for humans, but in Switzerland it is mainly used in animal feed. In this project, we are researching the local market structures around small and medium-sized cheese dairies and dairies in Switzerland and analysing necessary conditions for selling whey products in local value chains for direct human nutrition. In addition, we are quantifying the effects of direct utilisation of whey products in human nutrition for sustainability. The project is in collaboration with BFH-TI.
Duration: 2021–2022

The productive lifespan of dairy cows is of importance in terms of farm and resource economics, climate protection and animal welfare. In this research and dialogue project, we are working with research institutions, farmers, industry organisations and other stakeholders and experts to investigate the factors that have led or are currently leading to a decline in the productive lifespan of dairy cows in Switzerland. Based on this understanding, we are developing concrete, viable strategies to significantly extend the productive lifespan of dairy cows. The project is in collaboration with the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture FiBL (project management), Agridea, Qualitas, the Swiss Cattle Breeders’ Association (ASR), Schweizer Milchproduzenten (SMP/PSL), Bio Suisse, IP-Suisse, Schweizer Kälbergesundheitsdienst (RGD/KGD), Schweizerische Vereinigung für Wiederkäuergesundheit (SVW/ASSR), Swiss Animal Protection, Migros Genossenschaftsbund, the Federal Food Safety and Veterinary Office (FSVO) and the Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG).

Duration: 2021–2024

Completed projects and Publications

  • ProOrg – Code of Practice for organic food processing, finanziert über den CORE Organic Cofund Call 2016/17 EU ERA-NET, 2018-2021.

  • Checkliste «Nachhaltigkeit in gewerblichen Käsereien der Schweiz». Im Auftrag von Fromarte, Bern, 2020-2021.
  • Marktstudie für ein Start-Up zu Transparenz in der Lebensmittelwertschöpfungskette. Innosuisse Innovationscheck. 2020.
  • BugBias- BugBias - Nudging consumers to overcome bias against insect-based foodstuff. BFH-internes Projekt, 2019-2020.
  • Beurteilung der Nachhaltigkeitsleistung des Produktlabels der Schweizer Pärke. Im Auftrag des Bundesamtes für Umwelt BAFU, Bern, 2019-2020.
  • “Food on the Road” – Verarbeitung auf dem Feld. HAFL-internes Projekt gemeinsam mit dem Fachbereich Agronomie BFH-HAFL und Innovationcube AG, finanziert über BFH-Call Nahrungsmittelsysteme zum Thema Food Loss und Food Waste und Bundesamt für Landwirtschaft (BLW), Bern, 2019-2020.
  • Food Waste durch Überernährung in der Schweiz: Bedeutung für Ernährungsempfehlungen und Umwelt. HAFL-internes Projekt in Zusammenarbeit mit dem Departement Gesundheit BHF-G, finanziert über BFH-Call Nahrungsmittelsysteme zum Thema Food Loss und Food Waste 2019-2020.
  • TransChain: Nachhaltigkeit und Transparenz in der Fleischwertschöpfungskette. Swiss Food Research. 2019.
  • Vorschlag zur Erarbeitung eines Leitfadens «Nachhaltigkeit in gewerblichen Käsereien der Schweiz». Im Auftrag von Fromarte, Bern, 2018-2019.

Bautze, L., Nicolay, G.L., Meier, M., Gattinger, A., Muller, A. (2018). Climate Change Adaptation Through Science-Farmer-Policy Dialogue in Mali. In: Leal, F.W. (Ed.), Handbook of Climate Change Resilience. Cham: Springer. S. 1727-1741.

Biedermann, R., Bartel, A., Schwank, O., Frick, R., Meier, M., Ramsak-Noemi, K., Zethner, G., Weisshaidinger, R. (2018). Die Folgen der aktuellen landwirtschaftlichen Praxis auf die Umwelt: Anspruch und Wirklichkeit. In: Stolze, M., Weisshaidinger, R., Bartel, A., Schwank, O., Müller, A., Biedermann, R. (Eds.). Chancen der Landwirtschaft in den Alpenländern. Wege zu einer raufutterbasierten Milch- und Fleischproduktion in Österreich und der Schweiz. Zürich: Bristol-Stiftung, Bern: Haupt. S. 35-71.

Drapela, T., Markut, T., Meier, M.S., Pfiffner, L., Schader, C. (2018). Biodiversity performance of organic farms in Austria – results from eight years of biodiversity assessment. ICOAS '18. 6th International Conference on Organic Agriculture Sciences. 7 - 9 Nov., Eisenstadt, Austria. S. 18.

Gabel, V., Home, R., Stöckli, S., Meier, M., Stolze, M., Köpke, U. (2018). Evaluating on-farm biodiversity: A comparison of assessment methods. Sustainability 10(12). S. 1-14.

Markoni, Evelyn; Götze, Franziska; Lieberherr, Timo (10.12.2020). Unsicherheiten und Existenzängste rücken in den Vordergrund. GastroJournal (50/51). S. 22-23.

Markoni, Evelyn; Götze, Franziska (31.3.2020). Berner Ernährungsinitiativen – mit Nischeninnovation zu mehr Nachhaltigkeit. In: Blogbeitrag, SAGW Schweizerische Akademie der Geistes- und Sozialwissenschaften.

Markoni, E. & Götze, F. (2020). Anspruch und Wirklichkeit bei der Umsetzung eines nachhaltigen städtischen Ernährungssystems – eine empirische Vorstudie der Berner Ernährungsinitiativen. In: Postwachstumsstadt: Konturen einer solidarischen Stadtpolitik. München: oekom. S. 256-272.

Markoni, Evelyn; Götze, Franziska; Mettler, Rahel (2019). Restaurants gegen Food Waste Lebensmittel Technologie (11). S. 16-17.
Markoni, E. (2017). Nachhaltiger Konsum und Lebensstile in der Schweiz: eine soziologische Betrachtung individueller Selbstwahrnehmung des "Lifestyle of health and sustainability" Social strategies: Vol. 5. Bern: Peter Lang. 10.3726/978-3-0343-2363-5.

Markoni, Evelyn (2016). Plastikverbrauch – Vermeiden ist das bessere Recycling. Fachzeitschrift der Ärztinnen und Ärzte für Umweltschutz Oekoskop.

Meier, M.; Götze, F.; Markoni, E.; Eugster, E.; Heine, D.; Kopf, K. A.; Denkel, Ch. (2021). Ernährungssysteme nachhaltiger gestalten: Einblicke in die transdisziplinären Forschungsaktivitäten der Berner Fachhochschule, Fachbereich Food Science & Management VSH-Bulletin, 47(1). S. 25-35. Vereinigung der Schweizerischen Hochschuldozierenden VSH.

Meier, M.; Hörtenhuber, S.; Schweiger, S.; Markut, T.; Frick, R.; Moschitz, H. (2020). Understanding the interrelations between food consumption and the preservation of natural resources in urban food systems. In: Proceedings 12th International Conference on Life Cycle Assessment of Food 2020 (LCA Food 2020): Towards Sustainable Agri-Food Systems. Quakenbrück, Germany: Deutsches Institut für Lebensmitteltechnik (DIL). S. 31-35.

Meier, M. (2019). Using life cycle assessment to compare intensive versus extensive agricultural systems. In: Weidema B.P. (ed.). Assessing the environmental impact of agriculture. Cambridge: Burleigh Dodds Science Publishing.

Meier, M.S., Ferrari, A., Siegrist, F., Drapela, T., Pfiffner, L., Stolze, M. (2016). The need to integrate landscape structure in land use impact assessment on biodiversity: Making transparent trade-offs between agricultural production and biodiversity conservation. 10th International Conference LCA of Food 19-21 October 2016, Dublin, Ireland. S. 630-636.

Meier, M.S., Stoessel, F., Jungbluth, N., Juraske, R., Schader, C., Stolze, M. (2015). Environmental impacts of organic and conventional agricultural products - Are the differences captured by life cycle assessment? Journal of Environmental Management 149.S.  193-208.

Rudolph, G., Hörtenhuber, S., Bochicchio, D., Butler, G., Brandhofer, R., Dippel, S., Dourmad, J., Edwards, S., Früh, B., Meier, M., Prunier, A., Winckler, C., Zollitsch, W., Leeb, C. (2018). Effect of three husbandry systems on environmental impact of organic pigs. Sustainability 10. S. 3796.