Is Buying Local Better?

By Melissa McKenzie

Oklahoma-based Lopez Foods is the beef supplier for McDonald’s. Pennsylvania-based Keystone Foods supplies McDonald’s meat and fish. These two companies send thousands of pounds of meats to stores across the country, and while shipping is done quickly to maintain freshness, that $1 hamburger has made a lengthy trek throughout the nation to get into a local McDonald’s kitchen.

The freshness of the patties are clear when comparing a McDonald’s burger to one made at In-N-Out, which sources its beef from the largest family-owned agribusiness in the nation, Harris Ranch Beef Company in California’s Central Valley, and the company has long avoided mass expansion outside of locations where it has a relationship with a local supplier because it wants to continue providing fresh products to its customers.


What many consumers don’t realize is that when they shop local, they support more than one small business. Take for example Santa Clara’s Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos.

Owner Lori Phillips has said her focus is on finding smaller, local companies to partner with, which has led her to develop relationships with Full Belly Farm in Yolo County’s Guinda for her waffle cone products and Straus Family Creamery in Petaluma for her dairy. Each supplier can be reached within a few hours, and Phillips takes her ice cream truck to Full Belly for the farm’s Hoes Down Harvest Festival each October, giving back to a supplier who provides the base for her dessert creation.

“I try to get as much stuff from them as I can,” said Philips. “I’m really good friends now with the family and friends at the farm. We go up there a couple times a year. They run a big Hoes Down in October so we come up with the truck and camp and it’s a really great time. It’s one of my favorite events of the year.”

It’s a difference that not only can be tasted, but further impacts the importance of buying from local companies who support other local businesses.

Regina Chan of Sunnyvale’s Nom Burger has a similar outlook. She knows she has created a premium burger product, and part of that is her commitment to working with local suppliers for her products. She, too, uses Straus Family Creamery for her dairy, and sources her beef from Five Dot Ranch in Napa.

“Most meat comes from the Midwest, but I knew that I needed something from California,” said Chan. “The more local, the better. It’s sustainable meat. One-hundred percent no antibiotics, no hormones, grass fed.”

When customers purchase from either of these two local businesses, they’re not only supporting one person’s dream, but the livelihood of smaller farms across the northern half of the state. Furthermore, buying from small businesses that source their products from other small businesses cuts down on processing, packing and transportation waste—all contributing factors in environmental pollution. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that industrial pollution is responsible for nearly 50 percent of pollution present in the United States.

Local businesses generate 70 percent more local economic activity per square foot than big box retailers. An article in the Huffington Post written in 2013 and updated last year surmises that if every family in the U.S. spent an extra $10 a month at locally owned, independent businesses over $9.3 billion will be returned to the nation’s economy.

Consider this, while many local businesses can only afford to pay their employees so much, they are often working in the businesses themselves and attempt to provide their employees with more reasonable wages than the bare minimum.

It’s also not uncommon to see Phillips behind the counter at Rocko’s Ice Cream Tacos. Likewise, Chan regularly visits with customers in addition to working behind-the-scenes developing Nom Burger’s menu and preparing the dough used for the restaurant’s hamburger buns.

In the end, they don’t have the same salary and stock options as McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbook, whose benefits and salary package topped $15.4 million in 2017, but it’s the personal touch and commitment to local suppliers that they and other businesses provide that truly make buying from small businesses a better bet for consumers.

Next time a decision must be made between buying from a large corporation or a local business, consider the impact and plan to shop small. Support mom and pop shops that provide better experiences, better products to local consumers and enrich the community around them.