The other night I went to the grocery store for some butter. While I was there, I asked myself if there was anything else that I needed. Now I should’ve thought of sliced turkey, but when it comes to core needs and wants I naturally think chocolate! And what I really want, is to live in a world that doesn’t require me to think about which store I am in when I want chocolate. I want to live in a world that doesn’t force me to consider corporate policies when I want chocolate. I want to live in a world where the phrase “child-slave labor” doesn’t spring to mind simultaneously with the thought of chocolate.
Most people don’t realize most of their chocolate is made from cocoa harvested by enslaved children. There are many excuses for this modern slavery. One is economic; cocoa is cheap and the yield is so poor adults aren’t interested in working cocoa fields. Another reason is corrupt governments and lawless countries; most cocoa is grown in West Africa, particularly in Ivory Coast. And a big part of the problem is corporate policy. In 2001 the Harkin-Engel Protocol promised to abolish the worst child slavery practices and large companies such as Mars and Hershey were on board. Success for chocolate!
But…then the economy tanked and little was actually done. To Mars and Hershey’s credit, they have spent real money making cocoa production more profitable for farmers and have partnered with organizations such as the Rainforest Alliance to bring Fair Trade/slave-free cocoa to market. Still, virtually all of their flagship products contain cocoa from child-slave labor. What is a chocoholic to do?
Fortunately I was at HyVee and they have an “organic” foods section that sells Fair Trade brands that are certified to be free of child labor. My personal favorite brand is “Green & Black’s” certified by Transfair USA. Confirming how cocoa is harvested in dangerous countries does come with a cost, but it’s not cost prohibitive. My 3.5 oz bar was about $3.50, which is about the same per ounce as buying a bar at a convenience store. Granted, it’s not as cheap as buying the 24-bar pack at Costco, but it doesn’t inflict a toll on my conscience either, plus it’s really good chocolate! Periodically I poke Hershey by sending a note asking when their Bliss brand of chocolate will be slave free, but until then I’ll swing by stores that carry Fair Trade products. Because what I really want is a world where my only concern about chocolate is taste and my waistline.