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. Pinellas construction licensing board needs to be fixed. But how?

    Local Government

    LARGO –– Everyone agrees that the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board needs to be reformed. But no one agrees on how to do it.

    Rodney Fischer, former executive director of the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board Rodney, at a February meeting. His management of the agency was criticized by an inspector general's report. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times]

  2. New owners take over downtown St. Petersburg's Hofbräuhaus

    Retail

    ST. PETERSBURG — The downtown German beer-hall Hofbräuhaus St. Petersburg has been bought by a partnership led by former Checkers Drive-In Restaurants president Keith Sirois.

    The Hofbrauhaus, St. Petersburg, located in the former historic Tramor Cafeteria, St. Petersburg, is under new ownership.
[SCOTT KEELER  |  TIMES]

  3. Boho Hunter will target fashions in Hyde Park

    Business

    Boho Hunter, a boutique based in Miami's Wynwood District, will expand into Tampa with its very first franchise.

    Palma Canaria bags will be among the featured items at Boho Hunter when it opens in October. Photo courtesy of Boho Hunter.
  4. Gallery now bringing useful art to Hyde Park customers

    Business

    HYDE PARK — In 1998, Mike and Sue Shapiro opened a gallery in St. Petersburg along Central Ave., with a majority of the space dedicated to Sue's clay studio.

     As Sue Shapiro continued to work on her pottery in St. Petersburg, her retail space grew and her studio shrunk. Now Shapiro's is bringing wares like these to Hyde Park Village. Photo courtesy of Shapiro's.
  5. Appointments at Raymond James Bank and Saint Leo University highlight this week's Tampa Bay business Movers & Shakers

    Business

    Banking

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. Jackson will oversee all of Raymond James Bank's operational business elements, risk management and strategic planning functions. Kackson joins Raymond James Bank after senior …

    Raymond James Bank has hired Grace Jackson to serve as executive vice president and chief operating officer. [Company handout]