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What does local consumption mean?

Disclaimer: This article aims to disseminate verified information with which everyone can form their own opinion on the subject we discuss below.

At CrowdFarming we seek consensus among our CrowdFarmers to identify which variables must be taken into account to classify the direct purchase of food between consumers and producers of the platform as “local consumption”. After the first discussion between our team and the farmers, many interesting questions arose around the term “local”, we summarize the most relevant ones.

There is no consensus on the definition of “local consumption”.

When talking about local consumption, most of the time it refers to the distance that food travels. Each association or organization sets its own limits: the US Congress set it at 400 miles (644 km), the Locavore movement sets it at 100 miles (161 km) and the Slow Food association reduces it to a maximum radius of 100 km. However, some consider that consumption is not essentially linked to distance, but to the fact that the producer operates in the same country or in the same region as the consumer. Purchasing decisions in these cases can be linked to a form of professional or economic support for compatriots, but also because sharing the same nationality as the producer gives some consumers greater reassurance. 

Illustration of a half planet, half food plate, accompanied by a glass and a fork

There is no scientific evidence for some of the reasons

We must be careful when we say that the closer the producers are, the more sustainable our consumption will be. The distance travelled by our food is not the only variable that impacts our environment. In recent years, science-based articles have been published that measure the relationship between “sustainable” and “distance”.

Some of these studies show that the distance traveled by goods is not the most relevant variable in terms of energy consumption and that the impact of transport from the producer to the point of sale is 4% (Environ. Sci. Technol.200842103508-3513) of the global impact of the food chain. 

Confusion of “short circuits” with “local consumption”

Short circuits refer to the direct purchase of food from the producer by the consumer, avoiding intermediaries. For there to be a supply chain, there only needs to be one producer and one consumer, that’s all. The short or direct circuit does not have to mean territorial proximity.

Climatic conditions in the place of production

There seems to be a consensus that for a food to be considered local it is necessary for the place of production to offer a favorable climate for its cultivation. Humans try to artificially imitate the conditions for producing all kinds of food anywhere. With that in mind, it is our impression (which we want to contrast with the survey below) that the consumer does not perceive food as local when it is produced in places with climatological conditions not suitable for their cultivation.

Please take part in this survey to help us to narrow down the meaning of local consumption.

Gonzalo is a “farmeneur” - As the co-founder of CrowdFarming and a farmer himself, he splits his time between the office and the fields. Besides agriculture he enjoys reading and writing about digital products, logistics and discussing its impact on the food supply chain.

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