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Wal-Mart Goes Locavore: Will Double Its Local Produce Offerings

The local food movement meets the world's largest grocer

The words “Wal-Mart” and “sustainability” aren’t generally spoken in the same breath, but there’s news today that might change that: the world’s largest grocer is embracing the “locavore” movement in a big way, reports The New York Times, with more local produce on its shelves, support for small to medium-sized farmers and an efficiency index to track producers environmental waste.

In the United States, Wal-Mart plans to double the percentage of locally grown produce, to 9 percent. Wal-Mart defines local produce as that grown and sold in the same state. Still, the program is far less ambitious than in some other countries — in Canada, for instance, Wal-Mart expects to buy 30 percent of produce locally by the end of 2013, and, when local produce is available, increase that to 100 percent.

In emerging markets, Wal-Mart has pledged to sell $1 billion of food from small and medium farmers (which it defines as farmers with fewer than 20 hectares, about 50 acres). It will also provide training for the farmers and their laborers on how to choose crops that are in demand as well as the proper application of water and pesticides.

…And, it will begin creating an agriculture-specific index to measure waste and efficiency among produce suppliers. It will be asking its biggest producers to answer questions about water, fertilizer and chemical use. The eventual goal is to include that information in a sustainability rating that customers would see, so they could decide whether to choose one avocado over another based on how much waste it had created.