Wal-Mart Expanding Local Produce Selection

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First, Wal-Mart entered the market for organic produce. Now, the New York Times reports, Wal-Mart plans to expand the amount of local produce it sells.

"No other retailer has the ability to make more of a difference than Wal-Mart," the retailer's president and chief executive, Michael T. Duke, said in remarks prepared for a meeting Thursday morning. "Grocery is more than half of Wal-Mart's business. Yet only four of our 39 public sustainability goals address food."

Wal-Mart said it expected to meet the goals by the end of 2015.

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.
As I wrote in my recent defense of those who support local produce, local doesn't necessarily mean good. Part of the appeal of a farmer's market is the opportunity it offers to meet and talk with those who grow and raise your food. How much information about local farms and farmers will Wal-Mart provide customers?
As it did in the environmental arena, 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. Wal-Mart would also use the information when it decides from whom to buy.
Whatever your personal opinion about Wal-Mart, it will be interesting to see how all of this plays out -- and if any other retail chains with a grocery component (looking at you, Target) follow suit.

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