Abstract Despite an increasing interest in more sustainable forms of land management, few analyses have examined whether ‘local’ or ‘alternative’ food supply systems are sustainable in environmental, economic and social terms. Using SUSTAIN's ‘sustainable food’ criteria, this paper analyses the sustainability of a number of ‘speciality’ food supply chains operated by small rural enterprises in the Scottish/English borders. Results indicate that, in the main, the case study businesses are not particularly sustainable; instead, driven by a strong economic imperative, they often have to ‘dip’ into various ‘links’ associated with more conventional (commodity-based) food supply chains. The paper concludes by warning against the tendency to conflate terms such as ‘local’, ‘alternative’, ‘speciality’ and ‘sustainable’.

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