Our Newsletter:
Traceability Insider

August 2014
How Digitization is About to Change the Rules of Your Business

June 2014
Food Waste, We are Fed Up, and a Gladson Case Study

May 2014
Ag Tech and the Power of Catchy Criticism

March 2014
Labels are Soooo 1990, “Thorny” food labeling law

January 2014
Oxymoronic Grocery Predictions and Big Data for the Produce Industry

December 2013
The Gift of Growing – Helping Kids Get Their Hands Dirty!

November 2013
Produce Brand Strategy, Visibility and Transparency

September 2013
A "Lean" Supply Chain, Knowing your Shopper

April 2013
Food Waste, The Rolling Stones, Raley's, and Tanimura & Antle

March 2013
First Look! FDA Releases IFT Traceability Report and Lessons from Europe's Horsemeat Crisis Every Fresh Food Brand Should Learn

January 2013
What Does the Future Hold?

September 2012
"Locale" Produce and Reducing the Impact of Recalls

January 2012
Making the Case for Traceability

September 2011
GTINs – the Devil Is in the Details

August 2011
Turbocharge Mobile Marketing with HarvestMark and QR Codes

May 2011
Traceability Insider

January 2011
It's a New Year. What's the latest on PTI?

May 2010
HarvestMark Makes its VoiceCode™ Solution Open Source

December 2009
IFT Publishes Traceability Report for FDA

Holiday Issue 2009
What Happened at the FDA/USDA Hearing on Food Traceability

September 2009
Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

August 2009
How to Avoid Synching Without Trace

July 2009
What's the Value of PTI?

May 2009
Case-Level and Item-Level Traceability-What You Need to Know

April 2009
Still Have Questions about PTI? Don't Worry, You're Not Alone

March 2009
PTI, GS1, GTIN, GLN? HarvestMark's Got the FAQs

January 2009
The First PTI Milestone is Around the Corner

December 2008
A Pivotal Year for Food Safety

November 2008
FDA Solicits Public Comment on Enhanced Produce Traceability

October 2008
Produce Traceability Initiative Action Plan Released

September 2008
How Will Greater Transparency Enhance Your Business?

Español - 01 2012
Elaborando el Caso para Trazabilidad

Español - 03 2012
La Más Reciente Norma de la FDA es Efectiva Inmediatamente. ¿Debería Usted Estar Preocupado?

August 2013
How Walmart Could Implement PTI, Crowdsourced Shopper Insights

June 2010
How to Interpret the PTI announcement of "Goal Unchanged, Milestones Adjusted"

December 2010
An Update on the PTI

July 2010
Produce Traceability in Foodservice

February 2010
What's Going on with the PTI

March 2010
Consumer Attitudes to Traceability

August 2010
HarvestMark Launches Consumer Campaign in Portland, OR

March 2011
Have you heard of the PLU DataBar Initiative?

November 2011
Traceability? There’s an App for That

December 2012
It’s all new. Introducing HarvestMark 2013.

March 2012
The FDA's Latest Ruling is Effective Immediately. Should You be Worried?

June 2012
Do QR Codes REALLY Drive Shopper Engagement?

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September 2009: Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food

Why the locally grown movement is an opportunity

Eating locally has gained popularity in the last few years. Indeed, Secretary Vilsack launched a YouTube video this month promoting the importance of local food, knowing where food comes from, and how it gets to consumers' plates. The widely accepted definition of a "locavore" is someone who strives to eat food produced within 100 miles.

The reasons given for this interest in eating locally are complex, including: environmentalism, sustainability, safety, variety (more heirloom varieties), a desire to support independent multi-cropping farmers (versus monoculture agribusiness) and the local economy, less processing/more nutritious, better freshness/flavor/ripeness (fewer preservatives, varieties not chosen for shelf life), and seasonality. But while it's easy to be seduced by the rhetoric and romance what's the reality?

Local is valuable...but small. Shoppers are willing to pay a huge premium for local' a May 2008 study in the American Journal of Agricultural Economics found that shoppers will pay DOUBLE the price for a local product in a farmers' market versus the identical local product in a retail store. Locally grown food was worth about $4bn in 2002. That's less than 3% of the U.S. fresh produce market, assuming that number includes meat and dairy.

Food does travel in the US but food-miles alone are misleading. Food travels on average 1500 miles in the U.S. from farm to plate (up 25% since 1980) according to the WorldWatch Institute. However, the trip from the farm through the supply chain to the consumer actually makes up only 4% of the carbon footprint of produce. The other 96% is energy intensive inputs such as fertilizers, farm equipment, heating of hothouses, irrigation pumps, etc. Therefore, the most visible attribute of local (that is proximity) is the least important. Indeed, growers in locations better suited to certain agriculture or achieving economies of scale actually have a far lower carbon footprint than subscale, local growers. For example, a study in New Zealand found that lamb pasture-raised in New Zealand and shipped 11,000 miles to Britain contributes 1520 lb of CO2 per ton, compared with 6280 lb/ton for lamb raised in Britain and sold locally. It is 4 times more efficient.

Trying to produce locally is an inefficient use of precious resources. Locavorism runs counter to 250 years of economic theory: specifically David Ricardo's theory of comparative advantage which states that everyone is better off when producers specialize and trade. Ironically, substituting local food for food grown by regions that specialize may actually increase the cost of fresh produce, and drive down consumption.

So what lessons can be learned for the packers and shippers who provide the vast majority of fresh produce in the United States, who simply can't be local to everyone?

  1. Embrace the consumer preferences that the local movement reveals, such as the desire for:
  • Sustainable, environmentally conscious farming practices
  • Variety and seasonality
  • Support for independent farmers
  • A connection to the farmer and transparency
  1. Use item-level traceability to connect with consumers on these preferences that they want to pay a premium for. Promote locale not local; highlight your food safety and sustainability practices, profile your independent farmers and their local community; consider emphasizing seasonality, variability and variety where possible.
  2. Consumers currently equate local to environmentally better so a thoughtful educational effort is required by the industry to explain carbon footprint more accurately.


More from the USDA

At a keynote speech to the United Fresh Produce Association in Washington, D.C., U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack emphasized the importance in the current administration of increasing fruit and vegetable consumption in the U.S. He also made some very interesting points about traceability:

  • Secretary Vilsack wants consumers to understand and appreciate fresh produce better. He doesn't mean Americans should start phoning up the grower he means they should reconnect with the system that grows their food.
  • When talking about food labeling, in addition to pursuing more caloric and nutritional information, consumers should be able to find out where their produce comes from.
  • And in reference to food safety, Secretary Vilsack wants to see communication and social network technology used to narrow the scope of recalls, get information to consumers, and get their confidence back more quickly.

What's New at PMA Fresh Summit 2009

The PMA this year in Anaheim, Calif. will have a focus on traceability. There will be a Traceability Learning Center with multiple vendor table-top displays, including HarvestMark. The learning center is in the East side of the hall, right near the HarvestMark booth 4524.

Come by booth 4524 (right by the Traceability Learning Center) where we'll be demonstrating some of the latest innovations in traceability including PTI for field-packed produce, incredible data visualization tools, and a traceable food cooking demo. Come and enjoy 100% traceable, gourmet creations.

We'll be there to answer your questions about traceability, share success stories of real deployments across North America, and get you started on the road to enhanced traceability. Come by on Sunday Oct 4th and pick Bruce Peterson's brain about traceability and how it factors into the bigger supply chain picture.

Readers of the Traceability Insider are also invited to join us on Sunday night at the House of Blues. Pick up an invitation at the booth, and come and experience our (in)famous HarvestMartini!