What is the definition of “local” when it comes to food?

It's nice that so many consumers, and food makers, care about supporting local food purveyors. Too bad we can't all agree on how to define "local."

The New York Times today ran an article about how the folks behind Lay's potato chips (Frito-Lay is owned by PepsiCo) and Hunt's canned tomatoes (ConAgra) are placing the spotlight on the local people and communities involved in making their products (carefully worded not to say "locally grown"). Yes, some potato farmers in Florida supply the ingredients for the chips that are made in Florida . But does that count? Local to the manufacturing plant? Local to Floridians? Am I a locavore if I eat a Lay's potato chip in New York ? That's stretching it.

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Similarly, most of the tomatoes in Hunt's product come from within 120 miles of the company processing plant, according to the Times. Same questionable logic about "local" applies. Technically, every product is local to the place where it was sourced.

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To be fair: Not every town in America can have locally raised/grown/made produce and meat. Maybe this is a step in the right direction? And Frito-Lay has a whole program outlined: "The brand also will participate in more than 50 local-market events throughout the country celebrating the local communities that play a role in making Lay's Potato Chips, ranging from the Maine Potato Blossom Festival to the Hall of Fame Parade in Canton , OH to the Utah Pioneer Days. You can read the complete Frito-Lay defense (press release) on the company's website.

What do you think: Good first moves by agri-business or locavore lunacy?

by James Oliver Cury

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