The local movement is upon us. Every retail food establishment is looking for a way to capitalize on the emotional ties we all have to our hometowns. The quaint image of the farmer at his roadside stand is reminiscent of Norman Rockwell paintings.
Now let’s look at the brutal reality of moving that local product in a food safe manner through the existing distribution channels to your local eatery.
First, we need a grower who is cognizant of and committed to food safety. He needs to demonstrate that with a completed audit encompassing a risk assessment, SOPs, monitoring of critical controls, tracking and recall processes and procedures and a continuous improvement mindset.
Next, we have to physically move that product in an environmentally controlled conveyance (read: closed truck with a Thermoking) from the farm to the distributor.
Then we need to make sure that the product in question meets a number of standards – size, shape, quality and origin location. That’s right, in addition to being commercially acceptable in appearance and condition, it needs to meet the particular customers’ definition of local. “My state”, “200 air miles”, “one day’s drive” and so on are all variables brought to the equation. Without some standardization and communication, the best local product may not be local enough for a particular user. The more restrictions put on a specification, the higher the price. Local may have less “food miles,” but may cost considerably more.
The old saying, “be careful what you wish for – you just might get it” comes to mind. That local meal may satisfy you emotionally, but will shock you financially.