How Your Produce Gets to the Store

How Your Produce Gets to the Store
Have you ever looked at the spinach in your salad and wondered what’s its story was? It’s in the produce section ready for you to pick, but where did it start off? Fruits and vegetables you happen upon in the grocery store are often grown and shipped from thousands of miles away. If you’re wondering how your produce gets to the store, read our guide on produce’s journey to your local store.


Origin

Even if an area grows a certain kind of produce, that doesn’t guarantee that it has a short trip to your store. Often, people buy produce that’s grown elsewhere. California grows significant amounts of spinach, almonds, broccoli, grapes, lettuce, and many other kinds of produce. Overall, the state is responsible for most American-grown produce and it supplies every other state. But grocery stores always stock fresh produce, even in seasons that we consider off-seasons for the U.S. This is because much of the off-season produce is sourced from Mexico and South and Central America—avocado is one such example. There are also crops like bananas that the U.S. predominantly imports all year—they’re grown and shipped from southern countries such as Guatemala and Ecuador.

Preparation & Packing

When produce is ripe enough to collect, it’s then prepared and packaged for shipment. One common preservation practice is to wax fruits and vegetables to cut down on moisture loss and general breakdown. Companies then prepare their product for transportation by boxing them and implementing packing best practices. One practice is to create unitized loads so many units of produce combine into one easily transportable large unit. Another is to place these units on sturdy wood pallets ready for simple maneuverability and quick storage.

Transportation

Physically, your produce gets to the store via one of several means of transportation. Companies move their product with large trucks, train cars, or cargo ships that adequately refrigerate and insulate their produce. Companies need to be intentional about looking for the right refrigerated truck, because the truck needs to specifically cool the company’s product and keep shipments fresh. Once the produce is shipped, it’s on what’s referred to as the “cold chain,” which is cooling and preserves produce so the decay process is slowed and its life lengthens.
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