The definition is up for grabs. An AURI market study found that every retailer and food service company surveyed had a slightly different definition of local food.

In general, though, food companies said local means produced in Minnesota or the surrounding states. Some food buyers include products sold by suppliers headquartered in this region, even if the food is not produced here.

A separate 2006 survey of Twin Cities consumers found that most people define local food as grown in Minnesota or Wisconsin, says University of Minnesota economist Robert King. But a significant number say local means just the Twin Cities region.

Beyond geography, “many consumers also associate local foods with small farms and sustainable production,” King says, although “they may not be able to say what they mean by that. Consumers also associate local with organic.”

Source: Robert King, University of Minnesota; based on 2006 survey of 500 shoppers in six Twin Cities food markets.