"Buy Local" food labels are often nothing but bullshit

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2018/03/13/buy-local-food-labels-are.html


I dunno… unless I’m at a restaurant and it says “local ingredients” or something that implies that, I’ve always assumed the “buy local” tag or moniker simply meant the company was locally owned and the product was assembled/cooked/baked/whatever locally. Unless they go on to specify what if any ingredients were sourced locally, I never assumed any were. If it’s produce eggs/fruit/vegetables or meat I assume it was raised/grown/caught locally if marked as such.

Do others really have an expectation that every ingredient is locally sourced?


What does local mean?

Excellent post about a serious problem. Serious because according to the few polls available, US consumers prefer local to organic or any other branded category. But organic is at least a standard, with the possibility of federal enforcement. In the US, local has no standard–and no enforcement. Here is another take: http://www.environmentandsociety.org/perspectives/2015/1/article/what-should-we-eat


i ate at a restaurant in the olympic peninsula of washington last summer which specified location of the major components of the food in the menu. the steak was from a ranch 25 miles away, the fish was bought at the local fish market from a fishing outfit that headed out from the local docks. the herbs and vegetables in the dishes were from the restaurant’s own garden. they had the concept of local sorted out.


OTOH, buying from a local farmer’s market doesn’t always guarantee local produce either. I sometimes see (stashed in the back of the truck that brings in the produce) boxes and bags from farms that definitely aren’t within 50 miles of the market, and sometimes are commercial farms. The boxes may be recycled, but it still makes you go “Hmmmm.” The produce still has a level less of processing and handling, compared to a big supermarket, which means usually lower prices, so I’ll buy it.


The chicken you’ll be enjoying tonight is named Colin…


Yeah but it’s 100% organic bullshit.

I shop at 4 or 5 places near me that call themselves farmer’s markets. Other than the Amish one, the others all proudly display their national and international brands for all to see.The fruits and vegetables, which could have come from nearby, usually come from South America.

So in my case, it’s not that they are misrepresenting “locally sourced”, they are instead misrepresenting what a farmer’s market is, in order to attract business. Occasionally there are corner tables that have local pies or jams, but that’s it. If I want to be sure of locally sourced produce, I basically have to grow it myself.


This is literally the first time I’ve ever considered interpreting “buy local” as having anything to do with local ingredients rather than just being a label that means the business is from here and probably smaller than the corporate masters that own half of the rest of the grocery store.

Though now that I think of it, pressure on such small local business to get their ingredients from OTHER small local business and local growers seems like it would help with that so yeah okay, I’m willing to agitate about it, though I can’t lie and say I feel tricked or betrayed or shocked or anything. 'Cause I don’t.

I’m an artist what can I say, locally sourced acrylic paint is not exactly a reasonable demand, so “local art” has necessarily been made of stuff we bought from Blick or something. I expected the same of anything else labeled “local.” Like I said though, I have already realized why a stricter definition for certain things could be beneficial.


Generally speaking “Local” ≠ “Locally Sourced.” It has been my understanding that when someone says “buy local” they mean support locally owned and operated businesses. I.e. eat at a local diner instead of the national fast casual chain. Since both menus are probably full of traditionally seasonal ingredients neither of them are getting everything from your region but you’re theoretically adding more to the local economy by “buying local.”

If you really want locally sourced produce I suggest you look into a farm share or CSA. The good ones will tell you exactly where your produce is coming from. You’re going to have to be flexible though, as you will only get what is in season.


A mostly meaningless standard, unfortunately. It used to mean something more than just grown with different pesticides.


Went to a local pizza joint and ordered the “local” pizza which was advertised as local ingredients - turns out that means bought from local suppliers… Not a single thing on that pizza was grown or harvested in my zip code much less my state.


I’ve bought local eggs in Portland. They included a picture of the chicken inside the container. Her name was Ginger.




Yeah, about those farmers markets…

I lived in Calgary, Canada for 30 years. If you think the strawberries that you are buying at the local Calgary “farmers market” in February were grown locally, then I have a bridge to sell you.

1 Like

The only local strawberries that I know are genuinely local are the ones sold in season and by roadsides seemingly everywhere in SoCal.

Some people even think American cars are made in America.

Do you even Caveat Emptor, bro?

If it’s fraud sue for fraud or go elsewhere.


Usually when a menu makes a big deal about what far flung place a particular ingredient is from, it means one should worry.

Too many adjectives before the name of the food or ingredient usually means you are going to pay too much for something mediocre to crappy.

1 Like

I can see how eating local can be a problem for a cannibal. There are times when it is more prudent to get their food from outside sources in order not to raise too much suspicion with the police.*

*Hypothetically speaking and not at all coming from personal experience