PhD Candidate Athena Engman, Professor Shyon Baumann, and Professor Josée Johnston on Ethical Food Consumption

May 16, 2018 by Nico Golinski

PhD Candidate Athena Engman, Professor Shyon Baumann, and Professor Josée Johnston, in collaboration with Professor Emily Huddart-Kennedy (Washington State University), published an article in Canadian Food Studies. The article analyzes how motivations for ethical food consumption vary across demographic groups and types of food. The authors find that, in Toronto, motivations to purchase organic food often came from a desire to care for others, while motivations to purchase local food were more focused on the well-being of the community and the environment.

Athena Engman is a PhD Candidate at the University of Toronto studying epistemology, philosophy of mind, and medical sociology. Her thesis probes the experiences of organ transplant recipients. Shyon Baumann is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Toronto Mississauga. His research focuses on questions of evaluation, legitimacy, status, cultural schemas, and inequality. Josée Johnston is also a Professor of Sociology at University of Toronto Mississauga and her general research goal is to advance knowledge in the sociological study of food and consumer culture.

We have posted the citation and the abstract of the article below. The full text is available through the Canadian Food Studies website here.

Baumann, Shyon, Athena Engman, Emily Huddart-Kennedy, and Josée Johnston. 2017. "Organic vs. Local: Comparing Individualist and Collectivist Motivations for "Ethical" Food Consumption." Canadian Food Studies 4(1):68-86.

We extend prior research on “ethical” food consumption by examining how motivations can vary across demographic groups and across types of ethical foods simultaneously. Based on a survey of food shoppers in Toronto, we find that parents with children under the age of 5 are most likely to report intention to purchase organic foods and to be primarily motivated by health and taste concerns. In contrast, intention to purchase local food is motivated by collectivist concerns—the environment and supporting the local economy—and is associated with educated, White, women consumers. In addition to highlighting this distinction in motivations for organic vs. local food consumption, we also argue that the predominant “individualist” and “collectivist” framing in the scholarly literature should be reformulated to accommodate an intermediate motivation. Organic food consumption is often motivated by a desire to consume for others (e.g. children) in ways that are neither straightforwardly individualist nor collectivist, but rather exemplify a caring motivation that is intermediate between the two.

Read the full article here.