Under the Shop portion of our website, you may have noticed that many of the bars we feature list Fair Trade and/or organic certifications. Let's take a closer look at what these terms mean:
Done properly, Fair Trade certification means that the farm workers are being provided fair wages and safe working conditions (forced child labor is not allowed). The crops are raised through sustainable methods, which include protecting the natural shade canopy trees that cacao needs to grow, and genetically modified crops are prohibited. Most importantly though, Fair Trade aims to create a mutually beneficial relationship between the farmer and the buyer in which better quality cacao is provided and fixed prices are paid for the beans.
Simply put, organic means no harmful chemicals were used during the growing process. This includes chemical fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. The USDA National Organic Program also prohibits the use of artificial flavors, artificial colors, preservatives, and GMOs.
But what if that bar of chocolate you are enjoying doesn't have a Fair Trade or organic label on it? Does that mean you shouldn't eat it?
Not necessarily. Those certifications cost money that a lot of cacao growers can't afford to pay; often though, they also can't afford to buy pesticides which makes the cacao organic by default. In addition, many artisan chocolate makers are switching to direct trade partnerships, a movement that takes the concept of Fair Trade even further by cutting out the middleman. The chocolate makers work directly with the farmers to develop methods for growing high quality, flavorful cacao, and in return, the farmers profit more because they don't have to pay expensive certification fees.