Project Summaries 2010-2011 - Action pour la solidarité, l’équité, l’environnement et de développement (ASEED) - Équiterre

2177 Masson Street, Suite 206
Montreal, Quebec
H2H 1B1
Tel.: 514-522-2000
Fax: 514-522-1227

Eating at home: Canadian households and the motivations and obstacles related to buying locally grown food – a pan-Canadian study


Where our food comes from is a rapidly emerging issue affecting consumers, distributors, processors, growers and governments. Support for initiatives that promote and market local products is on the rise, as shown by the Quebec government’s $64 million investment in the Mettez le Québec dans votre assiette [Put Quebec on Your Plate] program since 2007 and in the diversification of short channels in 2009. There has also been an increase in the number of provincial initiatives to identify locally grown food (Aliments du Québec, Buy BC and Pick Ontario Freshness, among others). Lastly, distribution firms are putting more and more resources into promoting local procurement (Walmart’s Achat-Québec initiative, for example).

When we analyse the purchase of local foods, two issues become apparent. First, what do we mean by “local”? Existing studies show that definitions vary greatly: some measure it in terms of geographic distance; others, in terms of the number of intermediaries or transportation time. For example, in Great Britain, short-channel organizers had proposed a maximum radius of 30 miles between farm and point-of-sale, while consumers felt that “local” should instead be defined by a radius of 100 miles to give them a greater variety of products (Chinnakonda & Telford 2007:4). The second issue concerns the cost of buying locally. There has been no complete cost benefit analysis of buying locally (in Canada), and choices are often influenced by myth. For example, studies in the United States have shown that, contrary to popular belief, locally grown products sold at farmers’ markets are 66% less expensive compared to supermarkets (Sanderson et al., 2005), while they are 39% less expensive in Canada’s Atlantic provinces (Sabih and Baker, 2000). Analysing the cost of buying locally is central to any strategy aimed at encouraging households to buy more locally grown foods, a recommendation made in “Investir pour l’avenir” (2006) [Investing in the Future], the Quebec government’s action plan.

The objectives of the proposed project are:

  1. To enhance the debate about buying locally by providing valid empirical data, and to dispel certain myths, as required;
  2. To use the results to support the strategies of governments, businesses and associations that wish to encourage the purchase of locally grown foods;
  3. To provide the results of the study to as many Canadians as possible.

Expected Outcome

The expected results are:

  1. Data on the perceptions, purchase motivations and consumer behaviour of Canadian households, and on the prices, and costs and benefits of buying locally grown food.
  2. More detailed information on obstacles to buying (and to supplying) locally and strategies for increasing sales.