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Meat futures: socioeconomic geographies of livestock production and consumption

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  • Full or part time
    Prof D Moran
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

About This PhD Project

Project Description

Environmental and health concerns are driving a trend towards meat-free diets in many OECD countries, with significant consequences for agriculture, food supply chains, rural landscapes and livelihoods. In lower and middle-income countries, livestock production and meat consumption are still on an upward trend and the sector plays a significant role in food security and broader economic development objectives. The shifting patterns of global demand and supply dynamics pose fundamental questions about the nature of regional specialisation based on comparative advantage and how animal husbandry and production is reconciled by increasingly binding local, national and global environmental constraints.

This project will navigate the contested rhetorical and technological spaces between production and consumption of livestock products and their substitutes, and will identify the likely future shape of animal agriculture in different global regions. The research will critically engage with the competing socio-cultural and environmental narratives around livestock, and investigate the notion of a just transition towards an “optimal” livestock future, juxtaposing scenarios of potential de industrialisation in the global North, with regional specialisation in regions of the South offering a comparative advantage in terms of productive capacities and consumption need. The analysis will scrutinise how this narrative accommodates genetic improvement from advances in molecular, quantitative and statistical genetics, from reproductive biology, and precision agriculture and the new opportunities for data collection and new phenotypes that this brings for ‘engineering’ new ‘greener’ productive system in the North and South. Analysis will include the environmental and social costs and benefits of livestock production and consumption with a view to conceptualising alternative definitions of optimality. This includes recent rhetoric on planetary boundaries and safe operating spaces for livestock production.

Finally, the student will consider the likely governance architectures necessary to regulate the transition nationally and globally. This includes the overlapping public and private sector rights, roles and responsibilities. The research will involve working with a suite of social science methods. It will provide an opportunity to develop valuable skills in designing and implementing qualitative and quantitative surveys; collating and preparing large secondary datasets; and analysing survey and secondary data using qualitative methods as well as econometrics and multivariate statistics.

Funding Notes

Applicants must meet the following eligibility criteria
• A good first degree (at least 2:1), preferably with a social science component
• Demonstrate an interest in research and knowledge of food systems, sustainability and global environmental change
• The project would suit a graduate in social sciences, economics, agricultural or environmental/ecological/biological sciences, ideally with an interest in, or knowledge of, agricultural and veterinary sciences and agricultural economics. Experience and skills related to statistical data analysis and any background in qualitative research methods is beneficial.
• The project will allow the successful candidate to develop social science skills in an interdisciplinary environment, and to apply these skills in research that is of interest to policy and the farming industry.

Students must meet ESRC eligibility criteria. ESRC eligibility information can be found here*:

Award details:
This is a fully-funded full-time studentship, financed by the ESRC including an annual maintenance grant at the RCUK rate in the region of £15,245 for 2020/21 full-time), fees at the standard Home rate and a research training allowance of up to a maximum of £750 per year. The studentship is available as a ‘1+3’ or as a ‘+3’ opportunity depending on prior research training. This will be assessed as part of the recruitment process. The programme will commence in September 2020. The studentship is administered by the Scottish Graduate School for Social Sciences Doctoral Training Partnership, on behalf of its funders, the ESRC and Skills Development Scotland.

Other Information:
The PhD project will be jointly supervised by Professors Dominic Moran, Professor Geoff Simm and Dr Lisa Boden of the Global Academy of Agriculture and Food Security of the University of Edinburgh). Co supervision will be provided by Dr Peter Alexander in the School of Geosciences. The successful candidate will be registered with the University of Edinburgh’s Royal Dick School of Veterinary Studies.

Applications will be ranked by a selection panel and applicants will be notified if they have been shortlisted for interview by 27th March. Interviews will take place on or around 31st March

All scholarship awards are subject to candidates successfully securing admission to a PhD programme within Edinburgh University. Successful scholarship applicants will be invited to apply for admission to the relevant PhD programme after they are selected for funding.

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