SM is Local Food
I’m fascinated with the sudden rise in the local food movement. “Local” has become one of the hottest buzzwords in agriculture of late, almost nauseatingly so.
Local, local, local. What’s all the fuss about?
The definition of local food is obvious; it’s food that is grown locally to where you live. As for its meaning, I think that it depends on what an individual wants it to be. Some get it confused with organic and think it means less pesticide or herbicide use; those wanting to save the planet think it’s the answer to man’s energy-guzzling ways because little transportation is required to ship the products; those who are health conscious like it because they think local food is fresher and requires little to no processing, and therefore is more nutritious.
The list of arguments for local food is extensive. One argument for promoting local food that is gaining momentum is the globalization of our food supply, and that global trade has a negative impact on the incomes of farmers (not just in Canada, but in countries around the world).
Consumers are becoming more aware that just because a label says “Product of Canada,” this isn’t necessarily the case. The product may be manufactured by a Canadian company, but the ingredients are often produced in countries on the other side of the globe. With food safety a hot issue in the media right now, consumers are becoming more concerned that ingredients and products used in food manufacturing from other countries could be a potential health hazard.
Most of the discussion surrounding local food focuses on fruits and vegetables, and little attention has been given to meat products, with the exception of organic or niche products. It’s glaringly obvious that an orange is not grown in our climate. It’s not as easy for consumers to identify meat products such as poultry as being “locally” grown.
Sure, the labels say “Product of Canada,” but do consumers get it that poultry products are produced within their own province, in many cases within 100 kilometres of where they live?
I don’t think so. In fact, I know many don’t.
So why then is this not a stronger argument for preserving supply management? Arguments in the political arena seem to focus on preserving the economics of family farms and the orderly marketing system. This is undoubtedly a fair and extremely important argument, but it doesn’t always jive with consumers.
Supply managed industries need to broaden their arguments with consumers. To a consumer, what’s really at stake if supply management is lost? What they perceive to be large farms, or the preservation of locally produced food?
They won’t know if we don’t let them know. They don’t understand the politics or economics of farming – only on a very basic level. What they want to know is where their food comes from, how it is grown, and that it is safe.
Supply management can benefit from the local food movement and use it to their advantage. A lot of support could be gained from consumers if we could make them understand the consequences of losing supply management. n
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