Let's start with what should be an easy case, agricultural products. Consider, for example, an apple grown on a farm in Michigan. It arrives at your local grocer with a little sticker identifying it as US in origin. That would seem to be the epitome of a locally made product. There's no doubt that the apple was picked off a tree on a local farm. But even here, it's not clear what else was involved in the process of creating the apple and getting it in your hands. Was fertilizer used on that farm, and if so, where did it come from? What about the machinery used to harvest and transport the apples? The energy used in that process?
Organic farmers, and the organizations that certify them, have encountered a similar issue. If a farm in the past used conventional pesticides, at what point does it really become organic?
If the question of "origin" is sometimes complicated when talking about farm products, it can be far more complex when talking about manufactured goods. That's especially true for products assembled out of many different components, such as automobiles. A federal law called the American Automobile Labeling Act requires car makers to disclose, on the window sticker, the percentage of the car made in the USA.
As you might imagine, there is no such thing as a car 100% made in USA (or even 100% made in Japan or Germany). Given the complexity of the global supply chain for car parts, every car contains components from multiple countries. That doesn't mean, however, that all cars are equal in terms of origin. Cars assembled in the USA will, of course, tend to have more of the "value" (i.e., parts and labor) created and added locally.
In the next installment, we'll discuss Chicago Comb's commitment to local production, and the steps we've taken to ensure that "Made in USA" really means what it says.