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Young people, alternative proteins and pedagogies for sustainable futures

This research will explore the role of formal education in empowering young people’s engagement with, and action on, complex claims around sustainable food systems.

Furthering debates in geography about the perception and role of alternative proteins in food futures, and in education research on the pedagogy of ethical and sustainable citizenship, the proposed research will:

  • Examine how young people make sense of the ethical implications of different alternative proteins.
  • Explore young people’s understandings of, and visions for, future food provisioning.
  • Ascertain the potential role of pedagogy, and associated challenges, in empowering young people’s critical engagement with debates about future foods.
  • Identify forms of support that would enable informed discussion about future foods in schools.

These aims will be addressed by working with young people of primary school age (5-11) and their teachers in schools in Wales.


Young people’s voices are increasingly prominent in debates around environmental futures and animal welfare. Embodied in Greta Thunberg’s Fridays for Future movement, their highlighting of livestock farming’s greenhouse gas emissions has been especially high-profile. However, there remains a lack of understanding of how such environmental and ethical values translate into food consumption attitudes and practices.

The proposed interdisciplinary research begins to address this gap by exploring how young people of primary age envisage the role of alternative proteins – plant-based foods and edible insects – in more sustainable and ethical food futures. While there is a growing body of scholarship on adults’ understandings of, and attitudes to, such products, the views of young people have largely been ignored.

Contextualised by moves to foster ethical and sustainable citizenship through formal education, the project will examine the specific role of pedagogy in empowering young people to engage critically with, and act on, complex claims around the benefits of alternative proteins.

In Wales - the focus for the proposed study - a new curriculum will be introduced formally in 2022, aiming to engender ‘ethical, informed citizens’ who are ‘able to take considered, ethical and sustainable action’ (Welsh Government, 2019).

Taking the changing global food system and the rise of alternative proteins as its focus, the research will examine teachers’ perspectives on the delivery of the new curriculum’s ethical component. While focusing on Wales, the findings and resources will speak to similar concerns and developments internationally.

The project team

Principal investigator

Dr Christopher Bear

Reader in Human Geography, Deputy Head of School



This research was made possible through the support of the following organisations: