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Just What is “Local” Anyway?

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Nov 19, 2019 - 10:39:07 PM

Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22565 posts since 6/25/2005

The local chain stores are always proclaiming that this produce or that meat is “local.” It’s an obvious advertising attempt to attract buyers. But very few of the advertised items come from within thirty miles of Lodi, where I live. Produce from the southern San Joaquin Valley isn’t “local” in my book. Nor is coffee roasted in the Bay Area. So what is “local” in your mind? Within X number of miles of a place? Same county? Same region? Same state/province? I’ve seen claims of “local” that fit each of those.

Nov 20, 2019 - 12:18:02 AM
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Neil Allen

France

809 posts since 6/15/2014

It's whatever the manufacturer wants to state on the packaging unless this definition is enforced through consumer-protection standards. Hence the difficulty of any US/EU trade negotiations. As far as most European countries are concerned, Scotch whisky comes from Scotland (not Japan), Brie comes from Brie, Champagne comes from Champagne, etc.

Nov 20, 2019 - 2:22:38 AM

m06

England

8128 posts since 10/5/2006

To some extent the meaning of ‘local’ adjusts according to the activity it refers to. In relation to food production, retailers intend that term to indicate minimal transportation of that produce to point of sale and consumption.

To my mind local fruit and veg are those sourced within what is reasonable to describe as our immediate community. We have the choice in regard to produce that is not home grown. Oranges and bananas are never going to be a local product here in Somerset. The same goes for seasonal produce; we can buy beautiful locally-grown strawberries in the summer. A January strawberry will have been expensively transported over a long distance. We combine growing our own veg, exchanging locally and buying from local producers what we don’t grow.

But where there is no local alternative we also buy a very few products such as coffee and tea that are shipped in. We also need to consider where everyday items such as toothpaste, soap, washing powder and other household items are produced. How far did they travel?

The point about labelling and branding is slightly different, as it refers to the specific location of regionally-associated products. A Cornish pasty is one that is made in Cornwall, not a factory in Peterborough. Hmmm, so is all Cheddar cheese sourced from Cheddar, Somerset?

Edited by - m06 on 11/20/2019 02:36:55

Nov 20, 2019 - 3:23:06 AM

39 posts since 4/8/2019

I'm afraid this is something of a "political" question that demands insight and context rather than a straightforward nuts-and-bolts answer. I am sure that "local" as applied to the sale products is or will be a legal definition that is similar to "organic" as applied to foodstuffs. A label describing organically-grown foodstuffs used to mean that the product was grown without the use of pesticides. After the grocery industry realized that there was money to be made on this product classification, "organic" was, through lobbying by corporate growers and the grocery industry, defined in legal terms as a product that only contained an acceptable residue of certain acceptable pesticides, along with a host of other levels of contaminants common to food processing, transportation and storage. If "local" does not yet have a legal definition, it will eventually.

Nov 20, 2019 - 4:20:36 AM
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2683 posts since 7/28/2015

Nov 20, 2019 - 6:15:43 AM
Players Union Member

wizofos

USA

5275 posts since 8/19/2012

We can get beef, pork, bison, cheese, milk, eggs and some vegetable products that are locally produced.
What amazes me is that COSTCO sells cheeses that they import from Oregon into Wisconsin when we can stop at a cheese factory within a few miles of home.
My point is that you can get some things locally and others are not going to grow locally. I would not expect citrus fruits to be local but I can go out in the groves and pick apples and cherries. I can get some fresh fish locally (catch then a mile from my home) and other fish from Lake Michigan which is about 75 miles away, but not crab, lobster or clams.
I think that the term 'local' has different meaning depending on the product.

Nov 20, 2019 - 6:24:49 AM
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figmo59

USA

29609 posts since 3/5/2008

I started a thread about this subject about meat...
It was sumairahly..
Shut down as political...

I guess meat from other contries..is local....

I'm thinkin...Not....

Nov 20, 2019 - 6:40:10 AM

Owen

Canada

4404 posts since 6/5/2011

It depends, Fig, as you well know.

For me, "local" generally encompasses a distance to where it starts to be the next town's/district's "local."

Edited by - Owen on 11/20/2019 06:52:27

Nov 20, 2019 - 6:41:21 AM

52859 posts since 12/14/2005

I'll generally consider "IN Wisconsin" as local, although I am closer to the ILLINOIS BORDER than I am to parts of Wisconsin north and west of here.

If you really CARE, get a Wisconsin road map. push a pin in on the eastern edge, , where Hwy 43 intersects Hwy 60, run a string from there south to the border, wrap the string around a pencil, and make a semicircle.. Ain't this FUN? (and now, there's a pin hole in your table top!)

The items available at the Farmers' market ( every Thursday, in summer) are mostly local, although one vendor sells nuts carved by people in a country where her folks do missionary work.

Nov 20, 2019 - 6:43:21 AM

426 posts since 8/14/2018

As a marketing term, there is not, as pointed out above, any strict definition. Personally, I think 'regional' means a bigger area than local. I live in Cambridge, so I think the Boston metro area is 'local' but New England as a whole is 'regional'. But in a retail environment those meanings are clearly conflated.

Nov 20, 2019 - 8:02:40 AM

bubbalouie

Canada

12928 posts since 9/27/2007
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I buy as much as I can at the local stores in our small town. Where it comes from doesn't matter to me.

It keeps local people employed is all that matters to me.

I only boycott our Auto parts store because of one cranky employee that might be the owner! sad  

Nov 20, 2019 - 8:16:35 AM
Players Union Member

rinemb

USA

11694 posts since 5/24/2005

In the past, I considered it an "in the county" type of tag. Later, perhaps the state. Don't like it used to mean "in the country". Will boycott product if it is labeled local, and I buy it in Kansas, and it turns out to be from out of country.
I buy stuff made out of country, but don't fib to me about it. Brad

Nov 20, 2019 - 8:28:57 AM

1359 posts since 2/10/2013

My daughter buys some products exclusively from Europe. She lived there while her husband was in service. She is of the impression the quality of some products is unmatched. One example is her use of Italian made olive oil.

I watched a TV documentary, and mislabeling of foods seems to be global practice. Production of honey seemed to be one of the worse cases of commercial opportunism.

Nov 20, 2019 - 9:10:59 AM

donc

Canada

6092 posts since 2/9/2010

Outside farmers markets are popular here during the good weather. The traditional image would suggest that the fruit would be from the local orchards in the Samilkamein area and the vegetables are more likely from the nearby Fraser valley . As these market grew in size we began to see lemons, limes, oranges, and bananas. We know that citrus fruit and bananas are grown thousands of miles from here in California and Mexico. Where I live it is almost impossible to grow corn. It would be like saying Coca Cola is a local company because we have a bottling plant here.

Nov 20, 2019 - 9:43:32 AM
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Bill Rogers (Moderator)

USA

22565 posts since 6/25/2005

As Humpty Dumpty said in Alice in Wonderland, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean...”.  And so it is with “local,” it would seem.  It is—or has become—a very imprecise term.

Nov 20, 2019 - 10:06:03 AM

m06

England

8128 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by Bill Rogers

As Humpty Dumpty said in Alice in Wonderland, “When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean...”.  And so it is with “local,” it would seem.  It is—or has become—a very imprecise term.


The word 'local' hasn't 'become' anything, certainly not contentious. That's tilting at a lexical windmill, because not all words are intended to express precision. For example the word 'red' doesn't tell us what shade of red; it is used where there is latitude for our own judgment. Crimson (blue end of the red spectrum) or scarlet (yellow end of the red spectrum) are examples of more precise red hue terms and where absolute precision is relevant we can refer to CMYK or RGB numbers or use language in a more comparative and precise way.

If consumer law requires that there is a precise definition when the word 'local' is used on labeling that will be a legal definition externally applied to the word in that sales context. Until then we can trust to our own common sense and judgment in relation to the facts.

Edited by - m06 on 11/20/2019 10:14:41

Nov 20, 2019 - 10:39:17 AM
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2683 posts since 7/28/2015

Local probably means anything in the local group.

Nov 20, 2019 - 11:16:56 AM

222 posts since 10/9/2017

quote:
Originally posted by prooftheory

Local probably means anything in the local group.


Or anything sold in the Local Shop.

Nov 20, 2019 - 11:57:57 AM

4836 posts since 9/21/2007

We have a "Farm Stand" less than 1 mile from our house.  I use quotes because it is almost a small grocery store.  They sell all kinds of things they grow or make on site.  They also sell fruit from distributors.  

Apples-- they have miles or orchards.  That is their stock and trade.  They grow several varieties and every year do the tourist "pick your own" gimmick.  People line up for the chance to pay to work.  They have a cider press.  They make fresh apple cider donuts in their bakery.  The entire experience is great.

I hardly ever go there and here is why... Price.  Their prices are obscenely high.

I've even asked them why.  Answer-- because people will pay it.

They pick apples, put them in a gaylord, move them with a forklift to the parking lot in front of their store.  Then they charge $3 or more a pound.

The grocery store sells distributed apples.  They are picked, sold to a distributor, sold to a store, then sold to me.  $0.99 a pound.  

Here is the rub.  The farm stand also sells to distributors who sell to grocery stores.  I am pretty sure in some cases I can buy apples that were grown down the road from me at a local chain for $0.99 a pound.

No discount for picking your own.

We also have a "local" vineyard.  Now I don't booze but I do eat a lot of grapes.  Every year they have a "grape fest."  They always advertise "local grown grapes for sale."  $5 a pound.

In our tiny town we have a company that makes and packages pasta and sauce or "gravy" as they call it.  I won't lie, it is good sauce.  At $10 a jar I have only had it twice in almost 5 years.

"Local" is a ripoff.

I may be cheap, but with as much fruit as I eat that extra cost adds up to real money (money that could be spent on banjos).

Nov 20, 2019 - 12:38:40 PM

RonR

USA

1544 posts since 11/29/2012

Local grown is a hook, similar to new and improved.

Nov 20, 2019 - 1:21:49 PM

O.D.

USA

3378 posts since 10/29/2003

To me local is in my county.
Loads of vegetables , beef, fruit, dairy products available.

Everett

Nov 20, 2019 - 2:15:57 PM

m06

England

8128 posts since 10/5/2006

quote:
Originally posted by RonR

Local grown is a hook, similar to new and improved.


?

It’s neutral information. Neither ‘good’, ‘bad’, ‘new’ or ‘improved’. Nor is it a ‘hook’

That information is useful to those of us interested in comparing, monitoring and minimising our carbon footprint.

And in response to Joel, what you describe is an unscrupulous and opportunistic business. If customers are unable to spend intelligently that’s an issue in relation to that store and those customers, not the identification of local produce per se. One feature of small local stores is that they serve a community and rely on loyalty. We have a superb traditional greengrocers shop nearby selling mostly locally grown. Their prices are slightly higher than chain supermarkets but quality is consistently far higher. Local shoppers here mostly all buy their fruit and veg from that small store; it is seen as a community asset. And a bulwark against the dominance and destructive effect on communities of the major supermarkets

Edited by - m06 on 11/20/2019 14:28:09

Nov 20, 2019 - 3:04:10 PM

369 posts since 5/29/2006

In supermarkets in my town "local" seems to mean "from somewhere within a hundred miles or so from here". But it's their call, really.  They're not gonna get fined or anything.

Edited by - howbah on 11/20/2019 15:05:36

Nov 20, 2019 - 4:07:16 PM
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70409 posts since 5/9/2007

Local to me is all things lobster,crab,mackerel,clams,mussels,oysters and sea urchins.
Deer,duck,dandelions and donuts.

Chicken eggs (1 mile down the road),fiddleheads,blueberries,red raspberries,black raspberries,spruce gum,cat o'nine tails roots and old asparagus patches.
Our supermarkets pay for gathered fiddleheads.
We have some great Mom and Pop stores supplying us with wonderful cooking of all these local treats.
And of course local maple syrup and candy.

Nov 20, 2019 - 4:34:32 PM
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369 posts since 5/29/2006

quote:
Originally posted by donc

Outside farmers markets are popular here during the good weather. The traditional image would suggest that the fruit would be from the local orchards in the Samilkamein area and the vegetables are more likely from the nearby Fraser valley . As these market grew in size we began to see lemons, limes, oranges, and bananas. We know that citrus fruit and bananas are grown thousands of miles from here in California and Mexico. Where I live it is almost impossible to grow corn. It would be like saying Coca Cola is a local company because we have a bottling plant here.


Now, Farmers' Markets around here are regulated.  I don't know the exact geographic limits, but if you're found selling produce etc that is obviously not grown in the area, or that isn't really from your farm, you'll get booted out for the season.  

Edited by - howbah on 11/20/2019 16:34:48

Nov 20, 2019 - 6:21:37 PM

119 posts since 4/25/2016

Within my city for beer and coffee, in state lines for my produce and meat.

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