Trendy avocados removed from UK menus amid environmental concerns

by Adela Suliman | @adela_suliman | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 3 December 2018 19:57 GMT

Volunteers from a culinary school cut avocados as they attempt to set a new Guinness World Record for the largest serving of guacamole in Concepcion de Buenos Aires, Jalisco, Mexico September 3, 2017. REUTERS/Fernando Carranza

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Some cafes in Britain are ditching avocados on ethical grounds, claiming that the water-intensive fruit is harming farmers and land

By Adela Suliman

LONDON, Dec 3 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Avocados, the soft, green superfood may be falling out of favour with some restaurants in Britain as they move to ban the trendy food from their menus, amid environmental and land concerns.

Smashed on toast or artfully decorating plates, the fruit has gained popularity in Britain, becoming synonymous with hipster hangouts and millennials.

Now, some cafes in Britain are ditching avocados on ethical grounds, claiming that the water-intensive fruit is harming farmers and land in regions such as South America where is it grown.

"The Western world's obsession with avocado has been placing unprecedented demand on avocado farmers," wrote Wild Strawberry Cafe on its Instagram page, stating that serving the fruit no longer aligned with its ethos.

"Forests are being thinned out to make way for avocado plantations. Intensive farming on this scale contributes to greenhouse emissions by its very nature & places pressure on local water supplies."

The announcement received mixed reviews, with some calling for restaurants to go further and ban ingredients such as meat, matcha and almonds, while others suggested that the move was a cynical marketing ploy.

"I don't think we should get too distracted by some cafes that may be banning it," said Dan Crossley, executive director of Food Ethics Council, an English charity.

"It does raise interesting and important questions on where we get our food from ... but I don't think a wide-scale ban of any particular product will solve the problems we have," he told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Similar avocado bans have been undertaken by restaurants in Bristol and south London, with managers predicting that the trend to boycott avocados could soon become as popular as the fruit itself.

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Dear customers, we have some news for you. As of today, we will no longer be serving avocado in the yurt. This.is.not.a.joke. 🥑 Controversial? Absolutely...We’re as acquainted as the next person to our weekly intake of smashed avocado toast but this is something we have thought long and hard about. Let us explain... 🥑🥑 1. Seasonality. Locally sourced ingredients have been woven into our identity from day one. Whether it’s our home grown courgettes, apples or pumpkins, our menu flexes with the seasons as we let the produce of the Chilterns and surrounding areas inspire and inform our recipes. All our meat is sourced within 25 miles, we use local yoghurt, eggs, Chiltern rapeseed oil, to name but a few. There will always be exceptions, we do not claim never to use a pinch of an Indian spice, a drizzle of Italian olive oil, or a crumble of Greek feta. These are all beautiful things and arguably there is not a local alternative, nor would we want one. Our cooking is inspired by many of the cuisines of the world and it would be contrite to think it should be any other way. However, the sheer quantity in which avos were being consumed was making us feel uneasy as they were so at odds with our local ethos. We believe in this and want to truly practise what we preach. 🥑🥑🥑 2. Food miles. it doesn’t take a genius to work out that food tastes better when it hasn’t been flown 5000 miles. But more importantly, at a time when climate change concerns have never been more real, transporting ingredients in fuel guzzling planes from Central and South America, Africa and beyond just to satisfy our whim for the latest food trend, when we have a plentiful supply of perfectly delicious, nutritious food on our doorstep is just plain wrong. 🥑🥑🥑🥑 3. Sustainability. The Western world’s obsession with avocado has been placing unprecedented demand on avocado farmers, pushing up prices to the point where there are even reports of Mexican drug cartels controlling lucrative exports. Forests are being thinned out to make way for avocado plantations. Intensive farming on this scale contributes to greenhouse emmisions by its very nature & places pressure on local water supplies.

A post shared by Wild Strawberry Cafe (@wildstrawb_cafe) on

Avocados' popularity has soared around the world in recent years, driven by increased awareness of their health benefits, experts say.

Celebrity fans of the buttery fruit include Meghan Markle who revealed in her cookbook that a green chilli and avocado dip was a favourite recipe she made at home, while U.S. singer Miley Cyrus got an image of an avocado tattooed on her arm in 2015.

In Kenya, Africa's second-largest producer of avocados - behind South Africa, thousands of coffee farmers are turning to planting avocado trees known as 'green gold,' with 7,500 hectares under cultivation.

In the United States, annual per capita consumption of avocado doubled in the decade to 2006, and doubled again to 7.1 pounds (3.2 kg) in 2016, according to data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

"We are encouraged to see that cafes and restaurants in the UK are becoming more aware of the global environmental impact of the food they serve," said Chris Redston, executive director of Rainforest Trust UK.

The desire to make way for cattle ranches, palm oil and single crops such as avocados and pineapples is a key reason for the destruction of about 70,000 acres of rainforest a day, said Redston.

(Reporting by Adela Suliman; editing by Jason Fields. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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