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December 11, 2009

Is Walmart the Future of Local Food?

One of the most important historic developments in the food economy is embodied in this statistic: in 1900, 40 percent of every dollar spent on food went to the farmer or rancher while the rest was split between inputs and distribution. Now? 7 cents on the dollar goes to the producer and 73 cents goes just to distribution. That's worth keeping in mind when you read things like this:

... Walmart, now the nation's largest supermarket chain as well as retailer, has gotten into the local scene, embarking on an effort to procure more of its produce from local growers.

Uh, oh.

Now, there is an intriguing (and concerning) wrinkle to all this. As the St Louis Dispatch piece linked above observes (and as Tom Philpott and I have observed many times before), one of the big obstacles to expanding local food systems is the collapse of local distribution infrastructure. There are often no wholesalers to buy and store, and no delivery infrastructure to move, produce locally. Conveniently, Walmart has its own regional distribution system that rivals anything that ever existed before -- why reinvent the wheel (again). So, it's only natural for them jump in.

READ THE REST OF THIS POST ON GRIST.ORG

Photo by Koonisutra used under a CC license

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