Domestic Olive Oil Is Local (Even If It’s Out-of-State)

Posted by Olivia on Tuesday, April 2nd, 2013

Domestic Olive Oil Is Local (Even If It’s Out-of-State)

We’re big supporters of shopping locally (especially in Sonoma and Napa, where there is an abundance of great local businesses!). Ask a few neighbors or friends what “local” means to them and you’ll likely get an array of responses. Some define “local” as produced within 100 miles from your residence, and others simply as within the state you live in, but it’s all really perspective.

In the case of olive oil, here at The Olive Press we consider “local” to be olive oil that is produced domestically—that is, here in the United States. Compared to the vast majority of olive oil that is imported here from foreign countries like Spain, Italy, or Greece, domestically produced olive oil is relatively local. And similar to buying local fruits and vegetables, supporting local olive oil businesses can benefit both the economy and you, the consumer.

Support local economy

Foreign olive oils are often cheaper than domestic due to foreign subsidies, as well as mass production of inexpensive, poor quality oil. According to The Seattle Times, olive oil olive consumption in the United States has increased 40 percent over the last decade, yet our production still only makes up a mere 2 percent of the overall market here. Buying domestic olive oil gives support to the growers, producers, and suppliers here in the United States, and helps to keep local businesses competitive in the global marketplace.

Support local quality

In addition to certain foreign subsidies driving down the cost of olive oil, there’s an issue of quality that makes local attractive. Unlike mass-produced goods and foods that are produced in bulk and a lower cost, many small businesses (ourselves included) focus on quality over quantity. We harvest our olives by hand and process our oils in small batches. The labor that goes into making a higher quality product inherently results in a more “expensive” product—although we like to think of it as fair prices for a fair product (over cheap prices for a cheap product).

Looking past the discrepancy over the cost of imported olive oils compared to domestic, there’s the issue of fraud surrounding imported and big label olive oil brands. It’s estimated that two-thirds of common “extra virgin” olive oils sold in the United States don’t actually meet extra virgin standards. While consumers are warned about potentially fraudulent imported olive oils, Consumer Reports suggests that consumers look to California for finding authentic extra virgin olive oil.

To ensure your olive oil is truly extra virgin, experts recommend you “look for the seal”—which is a seal of authentication. All of The Olive Press Extra Virgin Olive Oils are certified by the California Olive Oil Council (COOC), an organization that certifies oils meeting the following standards:

  • Olives mechanically extracted without chemicals or excessive heat
  • Less than .5% free oleic acid
  • Positive taste elements and no taste defects, as determined during a blind tasting

For more information on finding and selecting olive oil in the United States, see Tom Mueller’s article “Buyer’s Guide to Olive Oil in North America.”

For additional information on California’s burgeoning olive oil industry, see “California’s Olive Oils Challenge Europe’s” in The New York Times.

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