Monday, April 15, 2013

Locally grown food sounds great, but what does it mean?

Locally grown food is just what it sounds like--food which is grown near where you live. Buying food grown locally can help preserve habitat for wildlife, save energy, and grow your local economy.

Local produce tastes better and it’s better for you.
Fresh produce loses nutrients quickly during transportation. During the trip from harvest to dinner table, sugars turn to starches, plant cells shrink, and produce loses its vitality. 

Nationwide, retailers from Wal-Mart to Whole Foods are increasingly devoting more shelf space to "locally grown" products including such things as fresh produce and Thanksgiving turkeys. The "locally grown" label is part of retailers' push to tap into consumer desires for fresh and safe products that support small, local farmers and help the environment.

Retailers however have far broader definitions of "local" than consumers do.  
Wal-Mart, the nation's biggest retailer, considers anything local if it's grown in the same state as it's sold, even if that's a state as big as Texas and the food comes from a farm half the size of Manhattan, as in the case of the 7,000-acre Ham Produce in North Carolina.
Whole Foods, the biggest retailer of natural and organic foods, considers local to be anything produced within seven hours of one of its stores. The retailer says most local producers are within 200 miles of a store.
Seattle's PCC Natural Markets considers local to be anything from Washington, Oregon and southern British Columbia.

Still, locally grown products may not be cheaper. There is not a tremendous savings to buy product locally.

About food safety
While consumers may think locally grown food is safer, food safety experts say that's not clear.

Most food-borne illnesses don't get noticed because not enough people get sick to alert officials that an outbreak is underway. Undetected outbreaks are more likely with "local" products delivered in small quantities and sold in a small area. Small producers are also less likely than big ones to have had food-safety audits, which grocers often demand of big suppliers.

Whole Foods requires third-party food-safety audits for its national produce suppliers and anyone producing ready-to-eat salad products, including packaged leafy greens and packaged fruit. 

In Summary, local food is about the future.
By supporting local farmers today, you can help ensure that there will be farms in your community tomorrow, that there will be green space for wildlife, and that future generations will have access to locally grown food.
If you really want locally grown food, support your local Farmers Market
Food grown in your area more than likely was picked within the past day or two and therefore is much fresher.

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