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  • Tamar Makov

​How Global is my Local Milk?

With Clare Gupta


‘‘Local food’’ is gaining in popularity, particularly within a rising alternative food movement, yet it remains an ambiguous term. We use an illustrative example— the case of ‘‘local milk’’ in Hawai‘i—to demonstrate this point. We evaluate localness’’ by measuring the origins of production inputs by economic value and physical mass–an approach that is akin to the Made in America standard. The innovative method we propose is easily replicable to other food products or locations worldwide.


We find that most first order production related inputs are obtained from non-local sources. Our findings are significant to the local food debate because a focus beyond the point of production to upstream inputs in the life cycle of a food item can push towards a re-framing what local means both in Hawai‘i and beyond. In particular, our findings suggest that production system type, as opposed to location of production end-point, might have a greater impact on the degree of localness of a product. Looking forward, a shift in focus towards production system characteristics may help researchers make headway in exploring the environmental and economic effects of local food.

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Economic value of inputs per gallon of milk produced in farms A and B by origin

Local inputs represented in green shades, non-local inputs in blue shades.

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