The production and distribution of food are among the hot topics debated in the context of sustainable development. Short food supply chains (SFSCs) are now widely believed to be more sustainable in comparison to mass food delivery systems. To date, very little quantitative evidence exists on the impacts of various types of food supply chains. Using a cross-sectional quantitative approach, this study assesses the sustainability of distribution channels in short and long food supply chains based on 208 food producers across seven countries: France, Hungary, Italy, Norway, Poland, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam. Ten distribution channel types are used in this study. To provide a comprehensive sustainability assessment, a set of economic, social, and environmental indicators are applied. Indicators commonly used in the literature are used, supported by original indicators constructed specifically for the present study. In total, 486 chains are examined and the study confirms that individual producers participate simultaneously in several, short and long chains. Participation in SFSCs is beneficial for producers from an economic perspective. SFSCs allow producers to capture a large proportion of margin otherwise absorbed by different intermediaries. It appears, however, that ’longer’ supply channels generate lower environmental impacts per unit of production when measured in terms of food miles and carbon footprint. Finally, ambiguous results are found regarding social dimension, with significant differences across types of chains.

Read the full article here.