Friday, August 5, 2011

Join the Debate: Defining Local

Posted By on Fri, Aug 5, 2011 at 4:56 PM

A customer recently asked B29 Streatery’s Greg Lamm if he could recite the name of the rancher who produces his “local” bacon hot dog. Lamm’s reply didn’t go over well.

“It’s Gem Pack. It’s a large producer; it’s been around since the ’40s. It’s a local product,” Lamm told the customer. “He was very upset, he was looking for an artisan product. There’s a big difference between artisan and local, at least in my mind.”

Lamm insists that his signage isn’t misleading. Many customers, he said, confuse the term “local” with the term “artisanal.”

“Artisanal is that local, sustainable, small farm mentality, which is fantastic, and we’ve seen it growing more and more in the valley,” said Lamm. “At the same time, Gem Pack is a local company. It provides way more jobs in the valley that any of the small local farms just because it’s gotten big.”

That experience prompted Lamm to write a blog post titled “The Trouble With Being Local.” In the post, Lamm writes:

To reach our goals we do have to make compromises. In some cases it is purchasing a local product that isn't necessarily an artisan good. There are a number of companies in the Treasure Valley that are well-established, make a solid product and make a lot of it. We are proud to feature Dairygold [stet] Cheese and Gem Pack meats. These are the companies that the little guys want to grow up to become.

Lamm explained that the overhead costs associated with using only artisanally made local products are prohibitive for a food truck.

“I’ve got a $6 price point on my sandwiches and Ballard’s cheddar is wholesaling at $5.50 to $6 a pound,” said Lamm. “If I put three ounces of cheese, like I am doing with the Darigold product, I’m going to have to charge $12 for a sandwich out of a truck.”

Though Lamm said he gladly purchases his bread from local bakeries, he also made the argument that they’re not technically local either.

If whether a locally owned company uses only locally produced product or not determines their "locality" then Cafe de Paris and Zeppole's can't be considered local. I proudly support and use both bakeries for our sandwiches and happily list them as a local product, no matter where their flour comes from!

We’re opening this debate up to you guys. Does “buying local” carry with it an implied ideology—the notion that the product will also be non-corporate, artisanal and sustainable? Should items be labeled local if they come from large corporations or agribuisnesses in the state? Also, is an artisanal business’s product local if they don’t purchase their raw ingredients locally? Comment away.

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