Make us your home page
Instagram

Locally grown? It all depends on how you define it

Richard Ball loads produce cartons at Schoharie Valley Farms near Albany, N.Y. The cartons are bound for New York City. Some might define that as food that is locally produced.

Associated Press (2010)

Richard Ball loads produce cartons at Schoharie Valley Farms near Albany, N.Y. The cartons are bound for New York City. Some might define that as food that is locally produced.

WASHINGTON — The No. 2 official at the Agriculture Department recently got a real-life lesson in the loose definition of the trendiest word in groceries: "local."

Walking into her neighborhood grocery store, Kathleen Merrigan saw a beautiful display of plump strawberries and a sign that read they were local produce. But the package itself said they were grown in California, well over 2,000 miles away.

The popularity of locally grown food — which many assume means the food is fresher, made with fewer chemicals and grown by smaller, less corporate farms — has led to an explosion in the use of the word "local" in food marketing. It's the latest big thing after the surge in food marketed as "organic," another subject of continuing labeling controversy.

But what does local mean? Lacking common agreement, sellers capitalizing on the trend occasionally try to fudge the largely unregulated term. Some stores may define local as within a large group of states, while consumers might think it means right in their hometown.

A federal definition is unlikely because of the diversity of crops and growing regions around the country. A set distance or definition that works for one state or one crop may not make sense for others. But some states have taken a crack at it.

Vermont defines "local" as grown within the state or within 30 miles of where it is sold. Massachusetts has similar restrictions for the word "native." And numerous other states have made it easier for local farmers to advertise that their food was produced in-state.

The U.S. Agriculture Department has found that there is no generally accepted definition of local food. With few regulations, retailers have different standards.

The Agriculture Department says consumer preferences for locally grown food can mean more jobs and profits for local farmers and higher produce sales in stores. It estimates locally grown foods will generate $7 billion in sales this year, up from $5 billion in 2007.

What's local? It varies

The U.S. Agriculture Department has found that there is no generally accepted definition of local food. With few regulations, retailers have different standards. Some examples:

Whole Foods Market: To be labeled local, food must have traveled to the store in seven or fewer hours by car or truck.

Wal-Mart:

To be labeled local, produce must be from the same state where it is sold.

Supervalu: (operates some Albertsons) defines local as within regions that can encompass four or five states.

Locally grown? It all depends on how you define it 04/01/11 [Last modified: Friday, April 1, 2011 10:11pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Who's best global airline? Qatar Airways takes No. 1 spot but Delta tops U.S. carriers

    Airlines

    The good news? Delta Airlines tops all U.S. airlines in a new Skytrax global airline passenger satisfaction survey of the world's best airlines. The bad news? At No. 32, Delta still ranks behind dozens of Middle East, Asian and some European airlines. For Tampa International Airport and the major airlines that operate …

    Southwest Airlines, the biggest carrier at Tampa International Airport, improved its customer satisfaction rating among global airlines in a recent survey.
[Times file photo]
  2. Vinoy resort will ask St. Petersburg voters to approve new parking garage (with tennis courts on top)

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — The Vinoy Renaissance St. Petersburg Resort & Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment and part of that plan calls for building a new one-story parking garage over eight existing tennis courts.

    The Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club is undergoing a $50 million redevelopment. The Vinoy wants to build a one-story parking garage as part of that project, in place of eight existing tennis courts. The tennis courts would be moved on top of the garage, which would hold 270 parking spots. But the Vinoy needs St. Petersburg voters to approve the project in a November referendum. This is an artists' rendering of the new garage from the street. [Courtesy of Vinoy Renaissance Resort and Golf Club]
  3. House committee passes Florida-sponsored flood insurance bill

    Banking

    The House Financial Services Committee pushed through a Florida-sponsored bill intended to cut flood insurance costs. If passed, the bipartisan bill would help create a marketplace for private flood insurance.

    A House committee passed a Florida-sponsored bill meant to lower flood insurance rates.
[Times file photo]
  4. 3 new restaurants open: Deccan Spice Indian food, Farmacy Vegan Kitchen, the Cake Shop

    Food & Dining

    DECCAN SPICE

    Deccan Spice has opened at 2325 Ulmerton Road, in what used to be the elegant and vast Grand Siam space in Feather Sound. It's getting high marks so far for its traditional Indian lunch buffet, and offers a range of southern Indian dishes (vadas and dosas and idlis, oh my) seldom seen …

    Farmacy Vegan Kitchen + Bakery serves wraps, acai bowls, smoothies and juices and plant-based baked goods like strawberry cupcakes. Photo courtesy of Charles Rumph.
  5. The driver who died in a Tesla crash in Florida using Autopilot ignored 7 safety warnings

    Autos

    When Joshua Brown's Tesla slammed into the side of a tractor-trailer last year at more than 70 miles per hour, the fatal accident became the world's first known car crash involving a partly autonomous vehicle.

    Tesla requires its drivers to keep their hands on the wheel even when Autopilot is engaged. A crash in Florida showed that the driver was warned to keep his hands on the steering wheel.  (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez) TXTG101