Retailers find wiggle room in the definition of 'local'

Aug 16, 2011

The “locavore diet” originally focused on supporting small farms and protecting the environment, says the blog Triple Pundit, however, large grocery store chains and big box discount stores are now writing their own definitions of “local.”

Their definitions include:

  • Grown and sold in the same state - Walmart
  • Grown within an eight-hour drive of the store - Safeway
  • Grown within one day’s drive - Whole Foods
  • Produced either in that state or that region of the US - Krogers
  • Grown in regions as broad as four or five states - Supervalu (Albertsons, Lucky)

The Triple Pundit post, written by Lesley Lammers, was prompted by an article in the Wall Street Journal published earlier this month. The WSJ withholds most of its content for subscribers only. But Triple Pundit, quoting the Journal, said such loose definitions have sparked criticism from small farmers and organic-food advocates that the chains are just capitalizing on the latest food trend, rather than making real changes in their procurement practices.

Lammers suggests usage of the term “local” may be a passing marketing phrase for the retail food industry that may soon be supplanted with “seasonal.” However, with consumers shopping for tomatoes even in the dark days of winter, even the term “seasonal” raises questions.

Director of the UC Agricultural Issues Center at UC Davis, Daniel Sumner, told the Wall Street Journal,I really don’t think Wal-Mart is going to tell customers, ‘This is not in season, you have to eat cabbage and turnips for the next three months.’ ”

By Jeannette E. Warnert
Author - Communications Specialist

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Retailers are writing their own definitions of local.

Retailers are writing their own definitions of local.