It’s official: Local food wins. According to a new survey by the Hartman Group that’s cited by USA Today, 52 percent of consumers think it’s important to buy locally grown foods whenever possible, while only 23 percent think it’s important to buy organic.
But what constitutes “locally grown”? As CHOW readers know, the definition is unregulated and squishy. The Eat Local Challenge defines it as food grown within a 100-mile radius of where you live, and the Hartman Group poll shows that about half of consumers agree with that definition. However, 37 percent think it means grown “within my state,” 4 percent think it means grown “in my region,” and 4 percent think it means grown “in the U.S.A.”
The way stores use the term is equally confusing. For example, Wal-Mart defines it as anything grown within the same state it’s sold, Whole Foods considers it to be anything grown within a seven-hour transportation radius, and Seattle’s PCC Natural Markets considers it anything within a tristate radius.
The survey also showed that people tend to think that food marketed as locally grown is fresher, safer, and comes from small producers, but none of that is necessarily true about the food sold as local at grocery stores, according to USA Today.
Is this a case of another seemingly common-sense term being nonsensically co-opted by marketing? Or do we need to officially define local?