Impossible solutions: Competing values in marketing alternative proteins for sustainable food systems

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9 Scopus citations


Creators of alternative proteins (APs) claim to provide solutions, so-called promissory narratives, to the messy and complex problems in our food system. Through these promissory narratives APs are said to offer responsible consumption. Our article uses convention theory to explore how justifications by AP companies change and expand from primarily using civic concerns (e.g. the environment, animal welfare) to focusing on a much wider range of justifications, including financial, status, and traditions or trust as these products move into the marketplace. This work makes an original contribution by extending convention theory and the broader theory of regimes of engagement to the marketization of APs. Marketization refers to the creation of new market relations around new goods. Our results also challenge the rapidly expanding AP literature that has claimed these companies seek to encourage people to care about civic concerns, like the environment and animal welfare. Despite these results, we argue APs can contribute to responsible consumption through distributed responsibility, but there is always the danger that non-market values may be subsumed under market values, thereby stunting the transformative potential of APs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)694-701
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Rural Studies
StatePublished - Aug 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Development
  • Sociology and Political Science


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