The term short food supply chain (SFSC) covers a wide range of food practices. However, even though they may take multiple form, a common denominator is their intent to allow producers to market and sell their products to consumers in relatively close vicinity.
There have been attempts at EU level to bring some clarity and develop some tentative definitions of SFSC. A study commissioned by the EU Commission defined them as follow:
The foods involved are identified by, and traceable to a farmer. The number of intermediaries between farmer and consumer should be ‘minimal’ or ideally nil.
– Kneafsey et al. 2013
Supporting the development of short food supply chains
In order to create a sounder institutional framework to support the development and mainstream of SFSC, their definition has been integrated into EU regulation as follow:
A supply chain involving a limited number of economic operators, committed to cooperation, local economic development, and close geographical and social relations between producers, processors and consumers.
– Article 2 of Regulation (EU) No 1305/2013 on support for rural development by the EAFRD
Alternative ways of structuring the food system
Notwithstanding these tentative definitions, it is important to bear in mind that what ‘unites’ SFSC is the fact that they are embraced as local responses to the problem of ‘distanciation’ induced by the conventional food chain.
Overall, SFSC are expected to provide alternative ways of structuring the food system including the reduction of number of intermediaries (and ideally none), the construction of ‘thickened’ social relations and close-knit communities involving both producers and consumers, the transmission of value-laden product information enabling consumers to evaluate the true value of food and the adhesion to shared value systems sustained via personal trust, familiarity and reciprocity.