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Organic Chocolate: Three Great Reasons to Indulge

Katie Testa

If you are a chocolate lover, then perhaps you spend a great deal of time in the candy aisle at your local store, your mouth watering over the countless sweet options in front of you. Rows of candy bars and bags of bite-size chocolate beckon to your taste buds…and your wallet. You might have noticed the growing selection of organic chocolate items and their heftier costs. But are they worth those higher price tags?

Organic products in general, and organic chocolate in particular, have grown in popularity for several years. Consumer demand for organic chocolate has increased due to concerns about food safety and the environmental impact of cocoa production. Many farmers and laborers prefer organic production methods, because they result in higher profits and better working conditions. The International Cocoa Organization notes that worldwide sales of organic chocolate nearly doubled between 2002 and 2005.

What Does Organic Mean?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has strict requirements for organic certification. Most importantly, the classification of “organic” signifies the absence of pesticides, fertilizers, antibiotics, and other damaging chemicals. There are additional requirements regarding processing, packing, and shipping items. Other countries might have different standards for classifying products as organic, so producers have to follow the regulations of the importing countries.

The question remains: Are the benefits of organic chocolate worth the higher prices? Here are three reasons you should consider organic chocolate products over the conventional brands.

Health Benefits

Chocolate has been all over the news recently. The major finding is that certain varieties of candy, in moderation, are not so bad for you after all. For many years, eating chocolate has been associated with the release of endorphins by the brain, resulting in feelings of pleasure and relaxation. Many types of chocolate still have unhealthy amounts of sugar and fat. However, according to medical experts, dark chocolate contains flavanoids, or anti-oxidants, whose benefits rival those of red wine, green tea, or blueberries. Some manufacturers go so far as to proclaim their chocolate to be “heart healthy.” Organic chocolate is an even better choice because it is free of potentially toxic pesticides and other chemicals.

Environmental Benefits

Those toxic chemicals are as harmful to the environment as they are to consumers, so reducing or eliminating their presence by using organic methods ensures both the safety of the product and the protection of the environment. Furthermore, a December 2009 report by the Soil Association (based in the UK) stated, "A worldwide switch to organic farming could offset 11 percent of all global greenhouse gas emissions," the equivalent of taking nearly a million cars off the road. Organic farmers also encourage biodiversity by growing their cacao beans in the shade next to other crops.

Social and Economic Benefits

Cocoa farmers can charge higher prices for organic products. For example, Peruvian farmers earn nearly 30% more for organic cacao than for its conventionally grown counterpart. Organic farming also encourages community support for local and small family farms. Better fair trade practices mean higher wages for laborers, many of whom currently live in poverty.

The potential results of spending a little more out of your pocket for an organic chocolate bar are positive health outcomes, cleaner and more sustainable environmental conditions, and higher social and economic standards. Won’t that knowledge make your choice a little bit easier, and your chocolate indulgence taste a little bit sweeter?


Health Disclaimer. Copyright ©2010-2018. Published with permission.

Sources

International Cocoa Organization. "Organic farming may help meet climate goals: report." Reuters, November 26, 2009.

"Peru Organic Products Update," [PDF] Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) Report PE8014, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, May 12, 2008.