Fifty years ago, about 70 percent of the produce found in grocery stores was grown, produced, or processed within 100 Mile Radius. Today, the food consume has traveled, on average, 1,500 miles before reaching the plate. What happened to local food in today’s global market?
Movements about the local food and “Locavore” lifestyles are on the rise. We can probably all agree that “local food” refers to seasonal, fresh, tasty, healthy, and sustainable food.
But if asked for the definition of “local food,” what would you say?
As it turns out, there is no official definition of “local food.” Let’s dig into the many ways the concept can be defined.
Local food can be defined by the distance between where the food was grown and where it is sold or consumed that a product can be transported and still be considered a “locally or regionally produced agricultural food product” is less than 400 miles from its origin, or 100 mile radius of the StreetCube kitchen in which it is produced. However, the common definition used by the general population considers food “local” if it was grown within 100 mile radius of the StreetCube kitchen .
If the food travels, it is important that information about the product travels with it to ensure its origin. In many instances, there may also be one intermediary between the farm and the consumer, such as a restaurant or retailer. But the question remains: how does this intermediary define “local food?
And does that definition comply with consumers’ expectations? This is where supply chain management comes into play, creating a connected network between partners to share the correct information.
Direct sales to consumer
Some people define local food as produce bought directly from the farm, either at the farm itself or at a farmers market. The number of farmers markets has steadily risen in the U.K. to about 800 in recent years however, the U.K. lags behind much of Europe and the US where the farmers market scene is thriving.
Still others refer to the characteristics of the environment where the food is grown when defining “local food.” Let’s say, for example, that for a specific region, food is grown in climate A, with soil type B, watershed system type C, and species type D. Any food produced in this same environment would be considered local to that region, even if the food comes from further away.
In the end, consumers will decide what local food means to them. Buying “local food” has become easier in recent years, due to the increase of farmers markets as well as the emergence of new services such as home delivery of local food (i.e. delivered veg boxes from organic suppliers) and vending machines on farms5 that allow consumers to purchase fresh produce at any time. Generally speaking, people tend to perceive local food as “better” and prefer purchasing locally, even though risks are still present. But what about processed food or global (i.e. non-local) food? Would we feel better about it if we knew where it came from? Would this knowledge improve people’s perceptions?
However you define “local food,” the growth of this movement increases the number of small farms and small producers on the market, meaning an increase in the number of partners that can be included in a supply chain. With consumers wanting more information on where their food comes from, it is essential to keep a transparent flow of information among all partners in the supply chain.