Avocado. It’s a food, it’s a fad, it’s the reason millennials can’t afford houses. We eat it whole, we can eat it on pizza, and apparently now we’ll be eating the stones. When baked and crushed it’s claimed they make a “healthy flour”, one that can be used in smoothies or brownies (though not as Instagrammable as smashed avocado on toast).
I can’t imagine many people will be up for crushing their own avocado pits – I struggle just getting them out of the avocado. Perhaps a hardy few will be tempted by dubious health claims that avocado can lower cholesterol and break out the mortar and pestle. Or, more likely, they’ll pop down to the latest trendy Camden café for an avocado stone smoothie.
In the EU we already import 440,000 tonnes of avocados every year, and demand just keeps growing. Rumours of an avocado food shortage earlier this year were met with shock and horror, and rising prices. This wasn’t just limited to the West either. Avocados have become a status symbol in China, where they are new and exclusive. In the UK they are a bit of affordable luxury. We may never be able to buy a house or retire, but we can have a delicious fancy lunch now and again.
But avocados are more than a pick me up. They have a wider impact than just the number of likes they can generate for you on Instagram. 30% of the world’s avocados are produced in Mexico, where the current rate of farming is unsustainable. To keep up with demand farmers are clearing forest, the wintering ground for monarch butterflies. These avocados plots are resource-intensive, requiring twice the amount of water as the forest they are displacing.
Global food trends wrecking havoc on developing countries is nothing new. Quinoa, once the holy grail of grains, came under fire a few years ago when it emerged that yummy mummies in Islington had inflated the price so high that Bolivian farmers could no longer afford what was once a staple part of their diet. (And you really don’t want to know what your roast beef is doing to climate change.)
I hope avocado stone flour isn’t going to be another fad driving demand for an exotic product irrespective of the environmental and social consequences. Before jumping on the bandwagon I’d like to ask consumers to do their own research into any supposed health benefits, and consider the wider impact of their dietary choices.
(Though I will probably still continue to indulge in some occasional homemade guacamole when I fancy a wrap.)