Chocolate, the treat that has been sent from the heavens. When you offer someone a piece of chocolate it is usually met with a smile and a sound of happiness.
Worldwide, people consume over 7 million metric tons of chocolate each year. It is eaten for just about any reason. Whether we are in celebration or in stress, chocolate seems to be the go to feel good food. And for good reason, when we eat chocolate our brain releases chemicals called endorphins which give us that feeling of well being.
Like most foods, people generally aren’t aware of the process that food takes from farm to market. We live in a world where we can now get fruits and vegetables from far flung places in the world at any time of the year.
But we have to ask ourselves at what cost?
When we take that bite of chocolate, it is the last step in a long journey from the cacao tree to our mouth. Have you ever considered where the story of chocolate begins and how it impacts the lives of people around the world?
Seventy percent of cacao originates from the West African countries of Ghana and Cote d’lvoire. Cacao trees are planted and when they are ready to be harvested, the community comes together and carefully removes the cacao pods by hand with machetes. Each tree produces about 20-30 cacao pods. The pods are then opened by hand and inside there are around 20-40 beans.
The beans then need to be fermented and sun dried. This is the process that gives chocolate its flavor. After, they are placed in a sac and sold to the next person in the supply chain. The buyer of the beans cleans and inspects them. After inspection the dried beans are then opened to get to the nibs. The nibs are roasted and ground to form the liquid basis for chocolate.
The supply chain from farmer to chocolate maker is complicated and there are many impacts that happen along the way. We have to weigh the environmental, economic and social ramifications that this high demand crop carries.
Those that make the least amount of money are the farmers. In Africa, farmers make as little as $200.00 per year. The top earners are the few large companies that control the global chocolate market.
What should consumers of chocolate know before they buy?
We’re talking about chocolate today because we want people to understand where their food comes from and how people and the planet are affected by it.
We as the consumer get to reap the benefits of eating it, but it’s important for you to know the dirty part of this agricultural crop. It’s also important for consumers to know they have options and can vote with their dollars. When purchasing chocolate, you want to look for those companies that participate in something called fair trade.
Fair Trade is not just a label, but a way for a better life, better wages and protecting the environment. This is a global movement to practice care for people and the planet.
Learn more about Fair Trade practices at the Fair Trade Certified Organization.
And last but not least, here are a few of our favorite chocolate companies that offer fair trade chocolate.
Rescue Chocolates (Yummy treats for people while supporting pet rescue)