Local is the new organic

The varie­ty and quan­ti­ties of food in Euro­pe can hard­ly be sur­pas­sed. We live in abun­dance and all the nee­ded goods are available at any time and in many dif­fe­rent varia­ti­ons. But what is actual­ly behind the­se count­less pro­ducts, whe­re are they pro­du­ced and is the­re any relia­ble indi­ca­tor for good qua­li­ty? We have inves­ti­ga­ted the­se important ques­ti­ons and found out whe­re con­su­mers ide­al­ly buy their food in order to have a grea­ter ori­gin trans­pa­ren­cy and to ensu­re a more cli­ma­te-fri­end­ly consumption.

In Euro­pe, the Ger­mans are at the top regar­ding orga­nic food. In the super­mar­ket, howe­ver, many con­su­mers ask them­sel­ves the fol­lo­wing questions:

„Do I reach for the organic tomato from Spain or rather the product from the region without a seal?“
„Is it sustainable to buy organic tomatoes packed in plastic boxes?“
„What is the best for my health and the environment?“

Sources: Spie­gel, smarticular

Qua­li­ty seals and cer­ti­fi­ca­tes are a popu­lar indi­ca­tor for the esti­ma­ti­on of the pro­duct qua­li­ty and ori­gin. An orga­nic seal is important for many con­su­mers, so many super­mar­kets and dis­coun­ters have also expan­ded their ran­ge accor­din­gly. Howe­ver, what many do not know: Some far­mers do pro­du­ce accor­ding to the exact spe­ci­fi­ca­ti­ons requi­red for an orga­nic seal. But cer­ti­fi­ca­ti­ons are usual­ly expen­si­ve and asso­cia­ted with high requi­re­ments, so far­mers with smal­ler ope­ra­ti­ons often shy away from them. Despi­te boo­ming demand for orga­nic fruit and vege­ta­bles, the pro­por­ti­on of orga­nic farm­land in Ger­ma­ny is sta­gna­ting. As a result, food is incre­asing­ly being impor­ted from regi­ons whe­re it does not ori­gi­nal­ly grow, e. g. toma­toes from green­hou­ses on the dry sou­thern coast of Spain. Small-sca­le orga­nic farms which fair­ly pay their employees and tre­at natu­re respon­si­bly do only exist the­re rarely.

So, what could be an appro­pria­te alter­na­ti­ve? Would­n’t it be a pos­si­bi­li­ty to buy direct­ly from the far­mer or at the weekly mar­ket and to inform ones­elf per­so­nal­ly about the pro­ducts and the ori­gin of the pro­duc­tion? Many con­su­mers have alre­a­dy addres­sed this issue and rea­li­zed that „local“ could be the new „orga­nic“.

What does “local“ mean regarding food?

The term „regi­on“ is not pro­tec­ted by law and is the­r­e­fo­re used in dif­fe­rent ways. A regio­nal pro­duct should the­r­e­fo­re be „from the regi­on for the regi­on“. Then it is pro­du­ced, pro­ces­sed and mar­ke­ted within a defi­ned regi­on. Many peo­p­le under­stand their regi­on to mean the grea­ter area around their place of resi­dence, for exam­p­le their dis­trict, their sta­te or cer­tain natu­ral are­as such as the Eifel, the Vogt­land or the Taunus.

Source: www.verbraucherzentrale.de

When shop­ping it is advi­sa­ble for con­su­mers to check the labels or web­sites of the manu­fac­tu­r­ers careful­ly. Adver­ti­se­ments like to cla­im that pro­ducts are regio­nal, but this does not neces­s­a­ri­ly mean that the pro­ducts actual­ly come from Ger­ma­ny. For exam­p­le, the ori­gi­nal pro­duct may be impor­ted from over­se­as and then pro­ces­sed „regio­nal­ly“ in Ger­ma­ny. Many foods which are adver­ti­sed in this way have alre­a­dy tra­ve­led a con­sidera­ble distance and are any­thing but local.

What are the benefits of local products?

1. Short trans­port rou­tes and reduc­tion of harmful green­house gases
2. Streng­thening regio­nal agri­cul­tu­re and secu­ring jobs in the local eco­no­my
3. Valuable infor­ma­ti­on about food and pro­ducts direct­ly from the pro­du­cer
4. Pre­ser­va­ti­on of important cul­tu­ral land­scapes (e. g. orchards, pas­tu­res and fields)
5. Inde­pen­dence from glo­bal trade struc­tures and secu­ring of sup­p­ly in times of cri­sis
6. Regio­nal agri­cul­tu­re is tan­gi­ble. Child­ren learn whe­re the food comes from and its value

Why is it so difficult to shop regionally?

Regio­nal shop­ping is only pos­si­ble to a limi­t­ed ext­ent, as fruit and vege­ta­bles are main­ly impor­ted from abroad. One of the reasons for this is that pro­duc­tion volu­mes in Ger­ma­ny are curr­ent­ly insuf­fi­ci­ent. In addi­ti­on, con­su­mers have to accept that sea­so­nal pro­duct could not be found in the super­mar­kets the who­le year. Com­pared to orga­nic pro­ducts, the­re are curr­ent­ly only a few coope­ra­ti­ons or part­ner­ships bet­ween retail­ers and regio­nal pro­du­cers. The cor­re­spon­ding mar­ke­ting struc­tures are the­r­e­fo­re still rare­ly available and have to be crea­ted or expan­ded at first.

Is “organic” always the better option?

Most foods are mean­while available as orga­nic varie­ties, so it is up to the con­su­mers to deci­de which pro­ducts they want to buy. Not only fruit, vege­ta­bles and meat are available in orga­nic qua­li­ty, but also fish, for exam­p­le. Here it is worth taking a very clo­se look becau­se, e. g. orga­nic fish, can also be bred in net enclo­sures, swims in the same water and also releases the excre­ti­ons and feed resi­dues unfil­te­red into the envi­ron­ment, just like the „stan­dard qua­li­ty“. The dif­fe­ren­ces: the sto­cking den­si­ty is lower and the fish „are fed, for exam­p­le, with fish meal and oil from the remains of orga­nic fish pro­ces­sing.“ So, it is ques­tionable whe­ther orga­nic fish is actual­ly better.

Which product characteristics are relevant for the purchase decision?

This was deter­mi­ned as part of a stu­dy by Zühls­dorf + Part­ner Mar­ke­ting­be­ra­tung. With an agree­ment of around 94%, „fresh­ness“ was named as the most important pro­duct cha­rac­te­ristic. This is fol­lo­wed by the reco­gniza­bi­li­ty of „ani­mal-fri­end­ly hus­bandry“ with 79% and the „tas­te“ of the pro­duct in third place with 78%. For two thirds of respond­ents, „envi­ron­men­tal fri­end­li­ne­ss“ and „regio­na­li­ty“ of the food’s pro­duc­tion have a high or very high rele­van­ce. A declared „orga­nic qua­li­ty“ still repres­ents an important purcha­se decis­i­on cri­ter­ion, but it is not as important than other pro­duct characteristics.

The future of local products

Accor­ding to a stu­dy by the Ger­man Fede­ral Pro­gram for Orga­nic Far­ming and Other Forms of Sus­tainable Agri­cul­tu­re (BÖLN), more than a half of the Ger­mans are wil­ling to pay hig­her pri­ces for food pro­du­ced in their own regi­on. In food retail­ing, so-cal­led „regio­nal brands“ are on the rise, which stron­gly remind the well-known orga­nic labels. Howe­ver, the cre­di­bi­li­ty of the­se brands must be careful­ly exami­ned, as the cri­te­ria vary wide­ly. In addi­ti­on, more and more initia­ti­ves are being for­med throug­hout Ger­ma­ny to mar­ket agri­cul­tu­ral pro­ducts local­ly or regio­nal­ly. In addi­ti­on, the Fede­ral Asso­cia­ti­on of Fruit and Vege­ta­ble Pro­du­cer Orga­niza­ti­ons (BVEO) has deve­lo­ped the logo „Har­ve­s­ted in Ger­ma­ny“ to make fruit and vege­ta­bles from local pro­duc­tion even more visi­ble in the trade.

Howe­ver, if you want to be sure that your own food is actual­ly grown or pro­du­ced near­by, you should rely on regio­nal purcha­sing from direct mar­ket­ers. For exam­p­le, this could be farm stores, weekly mar­kets or fac­to­ry out­lets. Not only fruit, vege­ta­bles and meat can be bought direct­ly from the pro­du­cer, but also fish. For exam­p­le, we sell our regio­nal­ly pro­du­ced SEAWATER Fish on pre-order via our own online store and offer our cus­to­mers the oppor­tu­ni­ty to pick up the fish direct­ly at our fac­to­ry out­let. When picking up the fish on-site, the cus­to­mers can also take a look insi­de the SEAWATER Cube. They can con­vin­ce them­sel­ves, that the fish grows up in a spe­ci­es-appro­pria­te man­ner and wit­hout the use of anti­bio­tics or growth pro­mo­ters. The SEAWATER Cube as a com­pact and ful­ly auto­ma­ted fish farm can be purcha­sed, for exam­p­le, by far­mers or inves­tors who want to estab­lish a regio­nal sup­p­ly of fresh fish. The­re are very dif­fe­rent pos­si­bi­li­ties for this, e.g. as an addi­tio­nal busi­ness model to exis­ting live­stock far­ming in rural regi­ons or as a lar­ge urban far­ming pro­ject for regio­nal fish pro­duc­tion in the city.

We have reco­gni­zed the importance of regio­nal pro­ducts and would like to shape the future with our visi­on of a decen­tra­li­zed fish supply.


— Pic­tu­re: SEAWATER Cubes
— https://www.bzfe.de/nachhaltiger-konsum/einkaufsorte-finden/direktvermarktung/
—  https://www.bzfe.de/nachhaltiger-konsum/orientierung-beim-einkauf/regional-einkaufen/
— https://www.verbraucherzentrale.de/wissen/lebensmittel/kennzeichnung-und-inhaltsstoffe/regionale-lebensmittel-11403
— https://www.smarticular.net/bio-oder-regional-unterschied-nachhaltiger-konsum/
— https://www.br.de/radio/bayern1/regionale-lebensmittel-106.html
— https://www.spiegel.de/wissenschaft/uebermorgen/bio-industrie-sind-regionale-bio-lebensmittel-nachhaltiger-a-1082571.html
— https://www.oekolandbau.de/bildung-und-beratung/lehrmaterialien/allgemein-bildende-schulen/wissen/bio-tierhaltung/fischhaltung-und-wildfisch/
— Ver­mark­tungs­be­richt: Fisch aus Aqua­kul­tur, htw saar