I work in the kitchen of a coffee shop, and my fellow coworker, Jess, (the primary baker at the Brew), and I tend to routinely talk about food while we busy ourselves making sandwiches for customers. A few months ago she brought up in conversation a fact that I knew but hadn’t really given great thought, or at least a place in my value system until recently.
We discussed how the majority of the chocolate we use in America is produced by slave children in the West Africa.
I won’t go into specifics of what is going on with the cocoa industry in Africa right now, because so many other people explain it better (links to valuable resources at the end of this post), but I will list a few major points:
- 69% of the world’s cocoa is produced in West Africa; 35% in the Ivory Coast alone.
- 2/3 of the American chocolate market is dominated by two companies – Hershey’s and Mars, both of which purchase a large majority of their chocolate from the Ivory Coast, where tens of thousands of children are enslaved on cocoa farms.
- In 2001, the Harkin-Engel Protocol was established by the World Cocoa Foundation and the Chocolate Manufacturers Association as a commitment to end the problem of child slavery in cocoa-producing nations by 2005. Unfortunately, efforts and funding on this plan have since fizzled out.
So how does this affect me?
Well, first, I’m sharing this with you all. I’ve also decided to seek out and use only fair trade chocolate in my house. Unfortunately there is no fair trade baking chocolate in Plainview, so I’m limited to what I can find an hour away in Lubbock and the internet. I haven’t totally figured out white chocolate yet, but it will probably involve scouting out some cocoa butter and making my own (which would be healthier anyway).
For me, I have decided that it isn’t worth it to knowingly perpetuate the concept of unfair labor practices for the sake of a confection addiction or a more flexible budget. As someone who regularly spends a few dollars extra for grass-fed, local, humanely-raised meat and poultry and touts the importance of buying local and organic for the ultimate good of the economy, the environment, and humankind, I cannot in a sound mind and heart continue to turn a blind eye to problem bigger than anything we face here in the United States. I cannot make sacrifices for animals that I am not willing to first make for mankind.
And chocolate isn’t the only problem. Coffee is another export that is known to use unfair labor practices in production. I am so proud that the Broadway Brew, my employer, serves only fair trade certified and organic coffee to our customers.
Stop Chocolate Slavery <—Great list of slave-free brands!