The Introduction sets the tone for the book by outlining the main concepts, debates and applications illustrated by the various contributions in this volume. The theme of Local Food Systems (LFS) is a complex one, and therefore a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary effort, drawing on a myriad of research concepts and frameworks. The chapter begins by embedding the food debate within the broader sustainability discussion. It highlights issues around future demand and supply scenarios, current production and consumption patterns, and the challenges of addressing some of these issues in the context of climate change. The chapter also provides a review of some of the responses so far to counter the current unsustainability of the global agri-food system. Initiatives and concepts such as local food systems, localisation, food security and sovereignty are discussed, drawing on examples from both the Global North and South. Since the volume is about socio-metabolic approaches to agri-food systems, the chapter also introduces the conceptual and methodological underpinnings of this approach, and how this relates to political ecology, social conflicts and environmental justice. The chapter ends with an introduction to the various contributions in this volume that discuss the following cross-cutting issues: the necessity to consider local cases as nested in regional, national and global scales, including the debate on what might be an optimal scale for food regionalisation or sovereignty; the agenda of re-localisation and its political and ideological background in relation to biophysical/socio-metabolic insights with respect to LFS; the inclusion of trade in the methodological and ideological framework of LFS studies; the multi-functionality of agriculture and various related metrics of efficiency in agriculture (including the energy efficiency/EROI variables); the biophysical performance of other, more sustainability-focused, production regimes; the land-sparing versus land-sharing debate in connection to the biodiversity and landscape multi-functionality of both historical and existing agri-food systems; the role of livestock in various agri-food systems, and the related issue of meat consumption and dietary transition as part of a broader metabolic transition happening in many parts of the world; the issue of labour in terms of efficiency, and also in broader social and economic contexts; the political underpinnings of peasant livelihoods, existing social conflicts and uneven ecological exchange related to food; the issue of democratisation of food systems, access to means of production for fulfilling basic needs, and the agenda of food sovereignty. The contributors to this volume all ask the following two questions: Which local food systems or their particular characteristics can serve as the best practice examples for maintaining and designing more sustainable agri-food systems in the future? Which scientific and policy relevant insights can the socio-metabolic approach offer with respect to studying the sustainability of local food systems? © Springer International Publishing AG 2017.