Corporate Food Products: The Other Side of Buying Local

Posted by Sustainable OKC | Posted in Business, Food and Drink, Locavore | Posted on 29-08-2008

3

by David Brooks

I must admit it makes me a little nervous to be contributing to a site that encourages people to grow backyard gardens and support their local coops. My background is in the big bad world of corporate food production. We are the ones that occasionally let e-coli get into the supply chain, or let salmonella get into poultry products. Because of the large corporate food producing entities, you did not have tomatoes on hamburgers this summer and went without Jalapenos on tacos in July. 

Here is the honest truth. My wife and I shop at farmers markets and gladly cook the garden produce our kids provide. We make our own bread and search the local grocers for the things grown in the area. In reality it would be difficult, if not impossible, to grow enough food, meat, dairy and fruit to be self-sufficient. So, the grocery store is a big part of our lives and our food supply. I won’t suggest where to shop, but there are differences in price, cleanliness, selection and which store supports the local farmers.  Next time you are in your grocery store of choice, ask the produce manager if they buy locally. They will gladly tell you what they buy locally and let you know when more is coming in.

The phrase ”buying locally grown food” is usually associated with produce and dairy. In the year 2000, six local food manufacturers set out to change that.  The Made-In-Oklahoma Coalition (MIO) was formed to create consumer awareness of the locally grown and produced food products in Oklahoma. As one of the founding members I must admit the program was designed as a way to share in marketing expenses and reduce advertising cost by purchasing larger print ad blocks and scheduling more TV and radio flights. However, the cost of fuel, the concern about carbon footprints, and the fear of product contamination has now become a major part of selling products nationwide. We now try to ship shorter distances and keep control of the raw materials.

MIO has now grown to 35 companies. The members range from small companies that sell only a few items, to multi-million dollar producers. Combined MIO companies employ over 18,000 people and have sales revenue of over $2.7 billion.  Here is how we contribute to local sustainability. The major food distribution systems in Oklahoma are located in Oklahoma City. Over 60% of the food MIO companies produce travels less than 60 miles to the distribution point. That is a very small ratio of transportation calories per food calorie. Our companies strive to manufacture using products grown or raised locally. Our companies use Oklahoma beef, pork, poultry, wheat and dairy products. All are shipped short distances for production and packaging and then returned to local tables. Why buy flour produced in a mill in Nebraska when Shawnee Mills is only 30 miles from Oklahoma City? The best mustard available is produced in Muskogee by Griffin. Head Country Barbecue Sauce now commands 72% of the Oklahoma market and is produced in Ponca City. Bar-S operates 5 manufacturing facilities in Oklahoma and out sells all other hot dogs by very large margins. These are just a few of the businesses producing quality food products right here in Oklahoma.

To learn more about these and other genuine Oklahoma products please visit: miocoalition.com. You will find a complete list of MIO companies, recipes, and products that can be purchased on-line from our individual members.

This is my first blog, so be kind to the guy from corporate, and on your next trip to the grocery store look for products made in Oklahoma, by Oklahomans.

Comments (3)

If I run short of my homemade jam, and I forgot to order jam from the Oklahoma Food Coop, I am partial to the jams and jellies of Oklahoma City-based Clements Foods, they taste fine for store-bought jelly AND each jar is reusable as it is as a drinking glass. I never realized that people drank out of anything but a jelly glass until I left home.

thank you for the thoughtful and informative post. the way i see it, MIO products are another piece of the buying local puzzle — they certainly contribute to food security in oklahoma. shawnee mills cornbread is one of my favorites.
i wonder if any of these larger local companies are offering certified organic food lines and/or consdering doing so? also do any of them include sustainable principles in the business operations and processes?

Dear Bob…..I also have a matching set of ‘jelly’ drinking glasses. Do you have a blue set?
Great blog from the corporate guy. Before you know it, he and his wife will be growing food.