What are short food supply chains?

Last changed: 09 March 2021
One person holds a hamburger in each hand. Photo.

The term short food supply chain (SFSC) covers a wide range of food practices. However, even though they may take multiple form, a common denominator is their intent to allow producers to market and sell their products to consumers in relatively close vicinity.

There have been attempts at EU level to bring some clarity and develop some tentative definitions of SFSC. A study commissioned by the EU Commission defined them as follow:

The foods involved are identified by, and traceable to a farmer. The number of intermediaries between farmer and consumer should be ‘minimal’ or ideally nil.

– Kneafsey et al. 2013

Supporting the development of short food supply chains

In order to create a sounder institutional framework to support the development and mainstream of SFSC, their definition has been integrated into EU regulation as follow:

A supply chain involving a limited number of economic operators, committed to cooperation, local economic development, and close geographical and social relations between producers, processors and consumers.

– Article 2 of Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 on support for rural development by the EAFRD

Alternative ways of structuring the food system

Notwithstanding these tentative definitions, it is important to bear in mind that what ‘unites’ SFSC is the fact that they are embraced as local responses to the problem of ‘distanciation’ induced by the conventional food chain.

Overall, SFSC are expected to provide alternative ways of structuring the food system including the reduction of number of intermediaries (and ideally none), the construction of ‘thickened’ social relations and close-knit communities involving both producers and consumers, the transmission of value-laden product information  enabling consumers to evaluate the true value of food and the adhesion to shared value systems sustained via personal trust, familiarity and reciprocity.


Alexandre Dubois
Researcher at the Department of Urban and Rural Development;
Division of Rural Development
alexandre.dubois@slu.se, 018-67 25 34, 073-256 15 08

Richard Ferguson
Researcher at the Department of Economics;
Innovation and Bioeconomy
richard.ferguson@slu.se, 018-671731