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The Food Industry Center.

July 2010 Archives

Concern Over Impact of Gulf Oil Spill on Seafood Safety Becomming an Important Issue for Many

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Following the June 28th University of Minnesota news release regarding Gulf seafood safety, The Food Industry Center has received several requests for interviews and further information. Data from the press release was quoted in a New York Times article, published July 13th, and was featured in news stories on both radio and television as well as internet news sites.

The key point of interest has been with respect to the proportion of people who say the Gulf Oil Spill will affect their seafood eating habits. The press release quoted that 54% of consumers surveyed said that the Gulf Oil Spill would affect their seafood eating habits in some way - and of those people, 44% (note this is a percent of the 54%) said that they would avoid seafood from the Gulf, and another 31% said they would eat less seafood regardless of where it comes from.

Looking at the weekly trends from the study, it is also apparent that consumer concern is increasing. In the first three weeks of the oil spill (interviews conducted from May 11th - 25th), 46% of those interviewed said they were "Extremely Concerned" about the risk the oil spill poses to the safety of seafood from the Gulf, rising to 54% in the next 3 weeks (June 1st - 15th).

Implications voiced by some of those of those contacting The Food Industry Center included concerns about how this event may impact food service/restaurant sales of seafood, and impact healthful eating behavior where seafood consumption is encouraged. The Food Industry Center will continue to track the event as it unfolds, and would be highly receptive to expanding the study if fund options presented themselves. Those interested should contact Dennis Degeneffe at (612) 624-4746.

The Little Known Local Foods Supply Chain

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Despite increasing consumer and policymaker interest in locally grown and processed foods, relatively little is known about the supply chains that move local foods from farms to consumers. Understanding the operation and performance of local foods supply chains is an initial step towards gauging how the food system might incorporate local foods in the future.

To learn more about this process, researchers conducted a coordinated series of case studies in five metropolitan areas stretching from Portland, OR to Washington, DC. Three supply chain types (mainstream supermarket, direct market from producer to consumer, and sale of a local product through a retail intermediary) were studied for each of the five product-place combinations. The case studies made it possible for researchers to compare the structure, size and performance of local food supply chains to mainstream supply chains.

Findings from the study, that began in late 2008, concluded:

• Local food products move through a variety of specialized and mainstream supply chains, but they currently account for a small percentage of consumer demand.

• Producers in local supply chains receive a greater share of retail prices than do producers in mainstream chains, but higher farm prices in local chains are sometimes offset by high marketing costs.

• Almost all economic activity in the local supply chains accrues locally, but mainstream food supply chains also make significant contributions to local economies.

• Products in local food supply chains travel fewer miles from farms to consumers, but fuel use per unit of product can be greater than in the corresponding mainstream chains due to logistical efficiencies that outweigh longer distances.

• Stable relationships with processors and internal investments in processing, packing, and distribution capabilities reduce market access constraints for local products, but per unit costs for these services are higher in local supply chains than in mainstream chains.

• Local supply chains often do not use infrastructure developed for mainstream channels or other local supply chains, but this may present an opportunity to increase product volumes and reduce per unit costs in response to growing demand for local food products.

This research was funded by the USDA's Economic Research Service. For a complete report on the study, see: Comparing the Structure, Size, and Performance of Local and Mainstream Food Supply Chains, USDA, Economic Research Service, ERR-99.

Extended versions of the case studies are also available on The Food Industry Center website.



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