Sweetly Savage: Inequality in the Chocolate Market

Life is like a box of chocolates. This might mean something to your average first world consumer but to cacao producers in Africa the saying has no context. If it’s not obvious by the title the contemplative practice I found the most helpful was the chocolate practice. The combination of having both raw cacao and a piece of chocolate itself to taste and compare helped actualize the stark difference between the raw product and the processed product that consumers see. Tasting both also helped explain why chocolate is much more of a luxury than cacao. Cacao at best is flavorful but nowhere near as sweet as chocolate which is primarily composed of sugar and milk. So it is not hard to imagine that those that produce the essential component to chocolate, cacao, never get to experience the melt in your mouth product of their hard work. 

However, seeing the video in class of the cacao farmers that were so amazed at the sight and taste of chocolate made the economic reality of farming and agriculture more real. This was not the first time I had seen the video but to imagine that these people work day in and day out to produce raw material that they never get to enjoy in its final form is a good show of the chain of command in the food system. Producers are generally not payed or respected for all that they provide to consumers. In fact, producers in the food system are often neglected to the point where they struggle to be consumers in the food system they help perpetuate

In “The Color of Food “it was stated that in 2007 47% of agricultural workers in California were food insecure. The lack of proper payment and respect that these workers get for performing such a vital task in our economy seems outrageous. Especially when considering fact that food is a universal need. If we apply systems theory it can be easily said that the the way agricultural workers are treated is in line with a linear system rather than a living system. That is to say, agricultural workers aren’t paid or compensated in a way that allows them to sustain their work over time and that can lead to dire consequences in the U.S as the number of domestic producers continues to decline.

3 thoughts on “Sweetly Savage: Inequality in the Chocolate Market

  1. Yuko Watanabe

    Hi Yasmine
    I would like to agree that the most helpful contemplative practice was the chocolate one.
    It made me realized that many food we enjoy, especially cheap and processed food, and also large profits big firms get sacrifice farmers rights and fair-pays.
    You points out the lack of payment which doesn’t let farmers to sustain their work.
    This point let me remember the other contemplative practice, the one with strawberry.
    Before we ate a strawberry, we watched the video which showed us the picking strawberries with agricultural robots. The age has started that people are replaced by robots. It surprised me a lot and gave me a chance to think the relation between food we eat and those who are working to produce such foods.
    Of course, consumers will be happy to buy foods cheaply. But food has been essential for everyone over the ages and thus many people have been involved in food production. We should not to pursue its cheapness more than sustainable food system.
    Thank you for giving me a chance to connect two contemplative practices.

  2. Josh Williams

    Yasmine, I like how you applied “The Color of Food” reading to the video we watched about cacao producers in Africa. Much like in “The Color of Food” the people that work in the chocolate production chain do not earn a living standard that allows them to enjoy the fruits of their labor. A common solution for many Americans who have the resources available to change their consumption patterns is to start buying more local foods. The idea is that if the foods are locally grown, the workers would have been treated better and payed better. But, in Anderson’s article, “Limits of the Locavore,” he states that injustices in the international food system still occur on the local level. Local producers still use immigrant labor, and commit labor rights abuses knowing they can use the legal status of their workers as blackmail. Again, it seems that solving food inequality through shifting consumer habits will not solve the labor abuses known to occur. Raising the living standards of food workers will take more action than individual responsibility.

  3. Sungkun Choi

    Hi Yasmine,
    I enjoyed reading through your post, very cohesive and well put. I just wanted to propose something I thought was interesting and falls in line with contemplative practices. If you haven’t ever been to the UW farmers market (Sat. on the Ave past 50th ST 9am – 2:30pm) try going there and chatting with some of the farmers after buying some of their produce. Later on when you’re preparing a meal with whatever you bought try and see if you can remember the farmer you bought it from with absolute clarity. Try to do this (minus the talking with the producer) as well with products you bought from a grocery store.

    I tried to do this in the past, and I found that trying to imagine the producer of products I bought from the grocery store was difficult, the image in my head was just migrant workers. Whereas, with the products I bought from the farmers market I could picture the farmer I bought it from and go on to imagine what sort of hardships went into producing the product.

    I think the reason that many people don’t think about the workers who produce much of what they eat is because there is no face to match to the product. Perhaps another part of the issue is that there is an overabundance of available foods in the U.S. Barring overall nutrition, it’s nearly impossible for someone to starve to death in the U.S.. Perhaps this overabundance has caused our mindset to normalize not caring much about producers as regardless of whether we do or not we will be able to get our food so long as we pay for it.


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