Even potato chips came from somewhere. So while it may have seemed reasonable to Frito-Lay to jump on the locavore bandwagon earlier this month when it announced it would market “America’s favorite potato chip” as “local,” it had those who take food ethics seriously guffawing, if not outraged. Michael Pollan, for instance, who recently said on the public radio show Democracy Now that people shouldn’t buy any food they’ve seen advertised, also said this: “Now, you have to remember, any product is local somewhere. Right? This food doesn’t come from Mars. But to think that Frito-Lay is a local potato chip is really a stretch.”
Frito-Lay’s “local” campaign focuses on 80 farmers from 27 states who grow potatoes for the chips. Consumers will be able to go to the Chip Tracker at Lays.com, type in their zip code and the first three digits of the product code to see where the plant that made their chips is located.
Though there is no certified or federal definition, locavores buy the majority of their food from within a specified radius from their home—generally 100 miles. The idea has to do with a sustainable way of eating, which often includes supporting local farmers who use sustainable agriculture methods. It places a big focus reducing one’s carbon footprint by shortening the distance food must travel from field to plate. As the concept of eating local has become more popular, many in the food industry are seeking to capitalize on the trend. Consumers who care about the distance their food has traveled should read labels closely, go to farmers markets and/or—most local of all—plant a garden, preferably from seeds obtained through local gardeners and farmers.