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Gunnar Vittersø and Virginie Amilien

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1The articles in this special issue of AOF have given us many different perspectives on the phenomenon Local Food. Some of the articles are focused on the consumers and their perceptions of local food, while others are more concerned with the actors in the other end of the food chain, like farmers, food processors and retailers. The political and economical conditions attached to the issue of local food have also been discussed in some of the articles. The authors have quite different points of departure for their interests in - and discussions of - the term ‘local food’. For instance, it gives a quite different perspective whether it is the ‘food’ (that is the product) or the ‘local’ (that is the geographical area of production), which is the focal point of the research. In addition there are many ways to approach these two aspects. We will in the following give a short summing up of the different contributions, and from there give some concluding remarks regarding the use of the term Local Food.

About the contributions to local food research in this issue

2Both the articles from Georgina Holt and Vittersø and al. are implicit discussing how local distribution of organic food on the one hand depend on different forms of capital (both social, cultural, institutional and environmental capital) of a community in order to succeed, and on the other hand how such initiatives may contribute to a further development and strengthening of the social- and environmental capital in a local context.

3Based on discourse analysis of interviews with stakeholders, Holts’ article underlines the different conceptions of local, organic food that are held between stakeholders in local food networks. Consumers’ purchases of local food are dependent on weather you live in an urban or rural area, and in order to increase the availability of local food, the author proposes that small scale producers’ marketing, processing and distribution ought to be supported by public procurement measures.

4Vittersø et al. present three cases of local, organic food distribution in the Scandinavian countries Norway and Denmark. The authors show that the actors taking part in these local food initiatives also were parts of the overall food system, thus they found a conventionalisation of the local, organic food products, but at the same time that conventional actors were influenced by these small scale local initiatives. They argue that neither organic production nor local distribution is sufficient in itself in order to develop sustainable food systems, thus more holistic approaches is necessary where different attributes of sustainability come into play, and where a link between the local and ‘extra-local’ will be a necessary precondition in altering the conventional food system.

5The article by Rachel Black from the Porta Palazzo farmers’ market, showed the importance of social and cultural capital in a local food market, while facing new regulations coming from the European Union. Through the farmer’s market perspective, the author shows how vendors adapt the new regulations about local food market to their needs and practices, and how they negotiate the new institutional norms to be able to continue their activities. In this way local food is in between tradition and modernity, and works as a kind of catalyst for economic and social survival methods.

6The article by Muchnik, Biénabe and Cerdan gives a quite different perspective on the role of hygiene in the development of the local food system. However, as in the Italian case, the Brazilian ‘coalho’ cheese case shows the tension that exists between distribution of local food and the institutionalisation of hygienic regulations. In both cases these processes have impact on the valuations and conceptions of food products and not the least the development of the local market.

7The two articles by Michel Dulcire and Amilien et al. emphasise the importance of cultural as well as social capital in the reconstruction of local food products. Dulcires' article analysed the different constraints attached to the concretisation of a local food product. After reactivating the local they have to give a commercial identification to the product. The social construction of the coffee ‘Bonifieur’ is complex, taking into consideration both traditional values and modern techniques, before geographically delimiting the local area of the PDO.

8Amilien et al. discussed and tasted thick sour milk from Røros with local consumers, and they noticed how central the local identity was for the consumers while purchasing and using this local product. In this case local quality was often mixed with ecological features, as well as traditional know-how, what makes both cultural and geographical notions of this local product important.

9The article of Anne-Hélène Prigent-Simonin and Catherine Hérault-Fournier shows that symbolic or cultural aspects of a local product are not always sufficient, rather the social relations between producer and consumers are decisive for many consumers’ trust in such products. They emphasise that there are different forms of trust, based on the knowledge of the products, reputation, perception and belief. The authors conclude that the direct relationship between local producers and consumers is an additional aspect in the perception of quality and trust, that have significant importance to some consumers. Again, this article is an example of the role of food in maintaining and building local, social capital.

10The article of Aurier et al. shows the importance of both the environmental/geographical and cultural dimension for consumers’ perceptions of local food products. Their findings underline that local products have many meanings to the consumers, and perhaps is a broader concept compared to the way these products in general are marketed.

Concluding remarks on ‘Local Food’ as a concept

11Taken together these articles leave the impression that ‘Local Food’ is a rather broad term containing several different aspects. The diverse contributions have had focus on either the cultural aspect connected to the food product or the geographical aspect related to both the place where the food is produced and the space where it is distributed. The changes in focus lead to a diversity of complementary perspectives on the phenomenon Local Food.

12Focusing on the product, the subject of the study could, for instance, be the characterization of local food, either from the perspective of certification or from the perspective of the consumer. Considering the geographical aspect, the researcher may be interested in the place of origin or the physical space of an area where production, distribution and consumption are taking place. Place aspect would often underline the historical, cultural and social features, while physical space would obviously focus on the typicality of the products from this special place. On the one hand, those crucial elements of the ‘terroir’ products, are well known from countries like France and Italy. On the other hand the physical space will be more concerned about environmental, social or economic aspects related to proximity and short distance between the different actors within the food system. As we have seen from two of the articles from UK and Norway, aspects linked to the sustainability of food systems and to rural development are important for local food.

13As the matter of fact, most of the articles do not solely cultivate one of these approaches, questions or perspectives, but discuss several different aspects of Local Food products and the relationships between these aspects. This is in line with the model borrowed from G. Brunori which shows that different sources of capital come together into play in production, distribution and consumption of local food products. While some of the articles have been concerned about how local food products may contribute to strengthening the social, cultural and environmental capital of local communities, others have shown how institutional, social and cultural capital is important in relation to develop local food products, as well as consumers’ trust in – and interest of local products.

14In light of these rather diversified perspectives on local food we might add a last aspect concerning the tension between the local and the global, that we introduced this issue with, and which many of the articles also illustrate: In many cases the globalisation process does not eradicate, but rather stimulate the rebirth or reconstruction of local and regional values. Local food could then be considered as a global phenomenon, not only because of the institutional interests emphasized by international food policies, but also because it displays the anthropological feature of our society to continually adapt tradition to innovation, by protecting frontiers and creating new boundaries.

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Electronic reference

Gunnar Vittersø and Virginie Amilien, “Postface”Anthropology of food [Online], 4 | May 2005, Online since 01 May 2005, connection on 30 May 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Gunnar Vittersø

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Virginie Amilien

SIFO, Oslo

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