Green Gold or Rotten Fruit: The Avocado Industry

Avocados are nutritional superfoods, but the fruit Mexican farmers refer to as oro verde is not a sustainability superstar. Michael and Kimberly delve into the challenges of this ‘green gold’.

Episode 10


Mexico couldn’t ask for a better cash crop. Referred to as oro verde by farmers and orchard owners in Michoacan (and more recently Jalisco), their standard of living has improved considerably with a global rise in the popularity of avocados. The birth of ‘superfoods’, the, now ubiquitous, ‘avocado toast’ brunch staple, and the love of guacamole are responsible for the huge economic boon for not only Mexico, but also Kenya, which serves the European market. Demand for avocados is also partly due to Chipotle’s popularity. Practically doubling its number over the last decade, closing in on 3,800 restaurants, the chain continues to spread across North America and Europe.

But this economic blessing comes at a cost. Cartels quickly moved in to control the Mexican avocado trade, relying on violence to keep people in line. Growers resort to illegal deforestation while overtaxing local water supplies to increase production. The government, meanwhile, faces the precarious situation of dealing with mafia violence without diminishing the huge economic gains reaped by this cash cow. Lovers of avocados, Michael and Kimberly weigh in on the ethical trade-off of the benefits to farmers and Mexico’s economy versus sustainability issues for human welfare and the environment.

Key Topics

  • How a Mexican staple food turned to gold, and the impact of its success on the locals

  • The amazing avocado tree

  • How Mexican avocados broke into the US market

  • The challenges the Mexican government faces as the world’s biggest avocado producer

  • Why the probability that the very avocado you’re eating was illegally grown

  • Chipotle’s dilemma of countering its carbon footprint

  • Why you might want to try Michael’s smoothie recipe (below), but also this fake guacamole one

Recommended Resources

Love 'em or leave em?

Smoothie Recipe

  • 1/2 avocado (160 calories)

  • 2 tablespoons peanut butter (190 calories)

  • 1 tablespoon baking cocoa (20 calories)

  • 12 ounces almond or soy milk (61 calories almond, 183 calories soy)

  • 1/4 cup raspberries (16 calories)

  • Sweeten to taste with stevia or monkfruit (note- Michael doesn’t use any added sweetener)

Total Calories: 447 (almond milk), 569 (soy)