Mast Brothers Chocolate has created a stir not only in the world of artisanal foods and fine treats, but also in the creative realm where people are socially, ecologically, and highly craft-minded. Their small “factory” in Williamsburg, NY sources cocoa beans exclusively from small family farms and coops from various parts of the globe, including Madagascar, Venezuela, Dominican Republic, and Ecuador. The Masts, Rick and Matthew, currently rely on sustainable shipping practices for receiving their beans, though their next endeavor is to actually sail to the Dominican Republic to personally interact with the farmers and families behind the beans. The brothers (and their small staff) process the chocolate from bean to bar, all in-house.The bars are individually wrapped by hand, using simple foil and fine papers, and are sold either directly to the customer or through small, local markets in the Brooklyn area. The Mast Brothers seem to be doing chocolate the right way, whereas much of the industry is still guilty of some messy practices.
A phenomenal video: The Mast Brothers.
Compare this complete and traceable lifecycle with a bag of Nestle semi-sweet chocolate chips (a product I happen to buy an embarrassing amount of), or practically any generic candy bar:
Any given bag contains cocoa from an untraceable source, which has been packed and shipped somewhere to be processed, then presumably shipped to another plant to be made into chocolate chips, then packaged in unrecyclable plastic, then shipped to a distributor, then shipped to a grocery store. The end of this lifecycle results in simply another piece of plastic that ends up in a landfill or the ocean (for sub-par chocolate and nasty practices along the way).
Some of the major movements working as catalysts to clean-up the filthy operations associated with cocoa production (child slave-labor, inadequate compensation, loss of biodiversity, deforestation of rain forests) are the various certification programs, including Fair-Trade, Organic, and Slave-Free. Those in the industry must meet certain requirements if they want to receive a stamp of approval from each of these organizations.
“Fair Trade certification ensures that cocoa farmers receive a fair price for their harvest, creates direct trade links between farmer-owned cooperatives and buyers, and provides access to affordable credit. On Fair Trade farms, slave labor is strictly prohibited and farms are inspected to ensure that Fair Trade standards are being met.”
“Organic foods are farmed without using synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, plant growth regulators, livestock feed, or genetically modified organisms. Instead, organic farmers use sustainable agricultural practices imitating those found in nature such as crop rotation, fertilizing with compost and recycled manure, biological pest control, and mechanical cultivation to maintain soil productivity and control pests. Certified organic foods are grown on farms that use organic and sustainable practices for typically a minimum of 3 years before receiving certification.
Obtaining certification for Slave-Free production of cocoa does not have it’s own separate qualifications, per se, but the farms must adhere to certain standards in order to be considered a slave-free environment.
+A short movie on “blood chocolate” and a brief reading on some of the big brand companies that have started moving towards cleaner practices.
+An exhaustive list of brands of chocolate products that are (mostly) organic and fair-trade.
+Kiss Chocolate Good-Bye: An article on unsustainable cocoa production and the need for better practices in order to become a sustainable and viable livelihood for cocoa farmers again.
+World Cocoa Foundation: A non-profit foundation which helps support responsible, sustainable practices in cocoa-farming around the globe.
+WorldWatch Institute: “Worldwatch focuses on the 21st-century challenges of climate change, resource degradation, population growth, and poverty by developing and disseminating solid data and innovative strategies for achieving a sustainable society.”
+From Coca to Cacao: An article on how many farmers in Peru have successfully been able to shift from farming coca (used to make cocaine) to cocoa beans.