In the last few years avocados have become the image of middle-class people trying to do better for the environment. It has become a running joke that basic white girls love this strange looking berry, and that does appear to be the case. You can find this fruit everywhere! On phone cases, t-shirts, a meme on Facebook, or as part of an amazing photo on Instagram. The question is why have they increased so much in popularity, and why do we hear so little about their negative side?
The rise of avocados
In the last 10 years the number of avocados available in the European Union has risen about 150%. That equates to about 1kg per head. US consumers eat about 3 times that amount per person a year! When starting this blog I decided to ask my friends why they think has caused this rise in popularity. It is thought that millennials are pushing this avocado frenzy and as my friends all fall into that category they seemed a good group to get some rather unscientific research from.
Most of the answers come under one of two themes:
People care more about their health
Avocados are a trend, especially on social media
Avocados have been labelled as a health food for a long time and research has shown that they are high in fibre, healthy fats and packed with vitamins, even if this comes at the cost of a high number of calories. These health benefits are why my family, all meat eaters, consume quite a high level of avocados. Although health reasons could explain why people eat avocados it does not explain the sudden peak in popularity, as the research has been around a long time. This is where the other answers come into play – that eating avocados is seen as cool.
A lot of people that eat a lot of avocados genuinely care about the environment and are trying to decrease the amount of meat they eat. As mentioned by one of my friends, avocados are a great way to get healthy fats into a vegan diet.
However, there is another group of avocado eaters. The ones that know that a photo of avocado on toast will get more likes than a bacon sandwich. The ones that go along with the current trend of a more meat free life, but don’t commit to it. Don’t get me wrong, I love avocado on toast, but I don’t understand why there is so much merchandise based around this odd fruit. Perhaps people really think that some avocado fairy lights are going to prove to people that they really do care about the environment.
The dark side of avocados
The rapid increase in the popularity of avocados would make you think they have no negatives, but sadly they are not entirely guilt free as they are made out to be.
In the last few weeks my newsfeed has been flooded with shock that avocados are apparently not vegan. This argument comes from the fact that bees have to be transported to the farmland where the avocados are grown in order to pollinate the fruit. This is believed to be cruelty to the bees, or even ‘bee slavery’, and some people now believe that avocados are not suitable for vegans as their production involves the mistreatment of animals.
Avocados are also having a negative impact on the environment. They have a huge water footprint – 60 gallons of water to grow! On top of this, due to the popularity of avocados many farmers have started chopping down forests to make way for avocado trees. This has led to deforestation, especially in Mexico and deforestation is a big contributor to greenhouses gases.
For me personally, I am challenged by the human cost of consumerism. So, I found it particularly upsetting to learn that there are high levels of child labour in the avocado harvesting industry and that often avocado harvesters die doing their dangerous work.
The negatives of avocados are difficult to come to terms with, especially when the popularity of the fruit has helped to contribute to the problems. The dark side of avocados is hidden from consumers which is why they are still so popular. The food chain is getting longer and more international which means that consumers know less about where their food comes from and what practices are involved in production. There needs to be an increased openness from the industry behind the food on our shelves so that customers can make informed decisions about the food they buy.
The fashion of avocados is linked to wanted to do better for the environment and reduce meat consumption. A trend about caring for the environment surely is not entirely a bad thing. I’m not saying that people should stop buying avocados because there is a darker side to their production, but I do believe that the food industry has an obligation to provide consumers with more information about their food. People should also do their own research about products they eat, buy and wear and not just accept what is told to us by suppliers and popular culture.