Local Flavor

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Local Flavor

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IN OUR COMMUNITY, WE ARE OFTEN URGED TO BUY LOCAL, ESPECIALLY IN THE CURRENT ECONOMY. BUT CAN YOU BUY FOOD AT THE LOCAL MARKET FOR THE SAME PRICE AS THE CHAIN GROCERY?

“I’d love to shop at local businesses, but I just can’t afford to.” This seems to be the general belief about local grocery shopping. It’s great for the local economy and for the community, but it’s so expensive that only some families can afford it. This mindset has turned local shopping into a sort of charity – you either pay more to support a good cause, or you make cost the priority and choose the big-box store for the best prices. But how accurate is this perception? Are local businesses really more expensive? If so, how much more?

Purchasing the above items at Kroger comes to the total of $21.50. Purchasing the above items at Arbor Farms comes to the toal of $20.71

Here is a “typical” dinner. The prices on the left are those found at Kroger, which is owned by the Kroger Co., one of the largest grocery chains in the U.S. with over 2,400 stores nationwide. The prices on the right are those found for the equivalent items at locally owned and operated Arbor Farms Market, which was opened in 1979

So is this a conclusive study? Not necessarily.
Take the tomatoes, for example. They are definitely out of season, and since Arbor Farms makes an effort to buy locally grown produce, they were probably grown in a greenhouse. This is expensive for the farmer, and translates into higher costs for the consumer. However, it is fair to assume that many shoppers would see the tomatoes priced at a steep $3.99 and pass them by. In the end, we can’t be sure what is really on each shopper’s personal agenda.
We must also remember that small local stores don’t usually have the selection or one-stop convenience of a big supermarket. The extra time it takes to go around to several stores to get the shopping done can be a hassle for busy customers.
Then there is the question of quality. Besides the absence of pesticides or antibiotics in the Arbor Farms steak, grass-fed beef is known to be more nutritious, and since it was raised nearby, it is likely fresher. The porterhouse steak from Arbor Farms is arguably higher quality, which should be factored into the cost, making it an even better deal. In addition, the romaine leaves found at Kroger were a little wilted and weren’t as crisp-looking as the Arbor Farms lettuce.

What we can fairly conclude from these numbers is:

  • Local isn’t always more expensive.
  • If you buy produce in season, you’ll get a better deal anywhere.
  • You can sometimes find higher quality products at local businesses that cost the same as or less than at a chain supermarket.

This should be enough of a reason to consider shopping locally for at least some of your groceries.

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