Wal-Mart and local food

There’s a “but” in a recent pean to the life locavore in the NY Times. “The future is local,” sure…

But the economic path for local food is still in many ways difficult.

Really? There may be some evidence that Wal-Mart for one doesn’t think so, though finding the odd local lettuce head at your nearest suburban mall might well all be…

…what one could call “local-washing,” nothing more than a marketing ploy that makes the megastore look like it gives a shit about the local economy/farmers.

Reservations about Wal-Mart’s sudden enthusiasm for local growers are not new. After all, of every dollar spent on food, “7 cents … goes to the producer and 73 cents goes just to distribution,” and you better believe that…

…once gas prices again begin an upward march, they’ll be faced with even greater reason to squeeze their suppliers.

Truth to tell, the reservations are not confined to Wal-Mart’s role, but are increasingly being extended to locavorism in general, often rather bluntly:

…the local food movement is built on a lie.

Cost may break down 7-73% between production and distribution, the argument goes, but the ratio is pretty much inverted when you look at emissions:

the overwhelming majority of carbon emissions associated with food occur during the production stage. …83 per cent of emissions are products of the production phase, while only 4 per cent can be directly tied to the transport of food products from producer to retailer.

I don’t know if Wal-Mart is local-washing, but if it is, “…treat[ing] people who buy their produce at Walmart with the same scorn we currently reserve for habitual smokers,” as some suspect is likely to become the norm among locavore evangelists, is probably not the way to get that changed.

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