"How much is the dish?" – Measures to increase biodiversity through true cost accounting for food

How much would food have to cost if all production effects detrimental to biodiversity were included in its price? And would consumer behavior be more sustainable if food prices spoke the truth? HoMaBiLe deals with these questions and brings consumers closer to the topic of “True Cost Accounting” through various channels with the help of low-threshold educational offers and practical cooperation.


Biodiversity loss caused by humans poses an existential threat to our ecosphere and therefore ultimately to the continued existence of humankind. Although the relevance of the issue is increasingly resonating with the public, it is far less evident in political measures taken to date. The most urgent area for change is probably agriculture, Germany’s largest land user. One measure for protecting ecosystems in the agricultural context is True Cost Accounting (TCA).

Within the HoMaBiLe research project, we aim to quantify and monetize the environmental impacts resulting from the production of food that lead to a reduction in biodiversity and are not currently included in the price of food. These environmental impacts or consequential environmental costs are allocated to the market price of different foods in accordance with the “polluter pays” principle. A distinction is also made between production practices (organic or conventional agriculture). Internalizing environmental impacts in this way appears to be urgently necessary for the fair integration of external costs (that is, biodiversity loss) into the product price – and thus for the creation of true costs. This scientific basis should be used for implementation from a political perspective as well as the social dimension.

In cooperation with associated research partners, such as the ResLab at the University of Augsburg, we are working on the methodology for monetizing agricultural follow-up costs. We are also looking at possible economic policy measures for the implementation of TCA standards in the area of corporate accounting, as well as agricultural policy measures at national level.

Our practice partner Tollwood processes these research findings into low-threshold educational offers for presentation at the Tollwood Festival in Munich, which takes place twice a year. Furthermore, Tollwood is developing an online meal plan manager in the “Organic for Children” sub-project, which supports canteens and cafeterias in children’s and youth daycare centers in the transition to biodiversity-friendly food offerings. The online tool is also enriched with the research findings and offers a knowledge platform for users.


  • Seidel, F., Oebel, B., Stein, L., Michalke, A., & Gaugler, T. (2023). The true price of external health effects from food consumption. Nutrients, 15(15), 3386.
  • Michalke, A., Köhler, S., Messmann, L., Thorenz, A., Tuma, A., Gaugler, T. (2023). True cost accounting of organic and conventional food production. Journal of Cleaner Production, 408, 137134.
Susanne Stoll-Kleemann
Project lead: Prof. Susanne Stoll-Kleeman
Prof. Susanne Stoll-Kleeman is head of the Chair of Sustainability Science and Applied Geography at the University of Greifswald.
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Das Projekt im Interview (content in German)

Projekt “How much is the dish?” im Interview – Wahre Preise im Supermarkt für mehr Biodiversität in der Landwirtschaft

Das Projekt „How much is the dish” will wahre Lebensmittelpreise in die Supermarktregale und ins Bewusstsein der Menschen bringen. Warum True Cost Accounting der Biodiversität hilft und wie das gelingen kann, verrät Amelie Michalke von der Universität Greifswald im Interview.

Zum Interview auf der FONA-Seite.