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Seven retail food cooperatives nationwide have launched a unique rating system in an effort to highlight products from local farmers and food companies, along with wholesale food co-ops.
Co-ops have historically focused on these offerings, “but we didn't really have a mechanism to tell people who was producing their food,” Tom Vogel, marketing manager, of Seward Co-op Grocery & Deli in Minneapolis, told the Minneapolis Star Tribune.
Now that message is delivered with a label affixed to food packaging or on store shelves to recognize products that meet the rating system’s criteria. The label says “P6,” which stands for “Principle Six,” referring to the sixth of seven international principles that have guided co-ops for more than a century. The sixth principle is “cooperation among cooperatives.”
To get a P6 rating, a product must be locally grown, originate from a small farm or producer, or come from another co-op or nonprofit operation. At Seward, “locally grown” means coming from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota or North Dakota, the Star Tribune reported. Also, items with some level of production taking place locally would be covered, such as coffee grown overseas but roasted locally.
A small farmer or producer is defined as one that's independently owned and operated, and selling directly to a store or through a local distributor. “That one admittedly is subjective,” Vogel told local media. The co-ops haven't established acreage limits or sales ceilings to define small.
The P6 label is expected to be placed on products that make up about 20 percent of Seward Co-op's selection and 36 percent of its sales, Vogel said. The co-op spent about $15,000 to develop the rating system. Other retail food co-ops participating in the program are in California, Indiana, Kansas, Massachusetts, Vermont and Wisconsin.