Not from Mars: Lays targets Pollan fans with 'local' chips

For 18 months now, since chugging books by Barbara Kingsolver, Michael Pollan, and Alisa Smith and J.B. MacKinnon in the span of a few weeks, I've been eating local, seasonal food as much as possible. In the winter this means I stuff myself with bacon, potatoes and celeriac; this week, thrilled with May, I've been eating about half a pound of lettuce and greens from my garden each day, with plenty of locally-made feta cheese. And it's great, because I can have all the Lay's potato chips I want...

Oh, hang on. That doesn't sound right. While, if you look at the letter of the locavore "law" (consume foods whose "food miles" are as low as possible, in other words, the ingredients were grown close to your stomach's place of residence), most any food could be categorized as "local" for someone; after all, as Pollan himself points out, the food isn't grown on Mars; the food industry is conveniently skipping over the "minimally processed" and "in season" part of a typical locavore's value system.
Pollan is shaking his head at the move by Lay's, Claussen's, Hunt's, and (dear Lord) Foster Farms to market their food as local... to someone. And I'm shaking, too. Pollan says "the ingenuity of the food manufacturers and marketers never ceases to amaze me. They can turn any critique into a new way to sell food. You've got to hand it to them."

I'll give them cred for their chutzpah, but I won't be buying "local" potato chips from Lay's, nor "local" chicken from Foster Farms. The point in buying local is not just numbers -- he with the lowest food miles wins -- it's to know something about how our food was grown and processed. Simply being able to type in a food code and find out where your potatoes were grown, before they were trucked to a processing plant, unloaded by workers making minimum wage, sliced, conveyor-belted, fried, and laced with a preservative or two before being packed in a not-recycleable bag -- that's not food knowledge. That's just disingenuous marketing. And I'm not paying for fast food made by a enormous corporation, even if they grow the potatoes in my own backyard.

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