Bird-friendly chocolate

first_imgGreat for candies, tooBesides the UGA formulations, the growers hope to market theirchocolate to high-end chefs.”We’re also negotiating with one of the largest chocolateproducers in Europe,” Justicia said. “Chefs could use thechocolate for cooking, or small chocolate shops could use it forbaking or making high-quality chocolate candies.”Justicia said a rain forest educational package incorporating thechocolate is being developed with funds from a U.S. Fish andWildlife Service grant. The package will include lesson plans forelementary and middle school children. “The students will learn about the birds of the rain forest andtaste the chocolate,” Shewfelt said. “This would tie the birdsand the chocolate together.”The researchers are investigating developing a high-qualityorganic chocolate bar, too, that schools and other groups couldsell for fund-raising. Justicia hopes to see bird-friendlychocolate products on grocery shelves by 2007. Shade-grown chocolateNormally, cacao trees grow on large parcels of clear-cut land. Tohelp preserve the rain forest’s plant and animal life, somegrowers are planting them in the shade, leaving surrounding treesand plants. The grower co-op harvests their shade-grown cacaobeans by hand.”Shade-grown cacao trees share space with the trees of the forestand create a friendly habitat for migratory bird species like thesummer tanager,” she said. “But they also generates lower yieldsper acre than sun-grown cacao trees. Therefore, we must find waysto make the chocolate business worthwhile for farmers.”One way would be to market chocolate rather than beans, she said.But processing their own chocolate isn’t feasible. Instead, theresearchers and growers hope to develop a partnership with anexisting processor in Ecuador.To further market their chocolate, the growers plan to focus ontheir environmentally friendly growing practices and the highquality of their beans. Following advice from UGA researchers,the growers now sort their beans for quality, which increasesprofit.”We are calling the chocolate ‘bird-friendly organic’ andemphasizing that it’s a socially responsible product,” Justiciasaid. “This is extremely high-quality chocolate, as this regionis known for producing high-aroma chocolate. It’s the finestquality in the world.” Chocolate sauce and syrupShoppers will find bird-friendly organic chocolate in twoproducts: a chocolate dunking sauce and a chocolate syrup. Both were developed by UGA food science students using theEcuadorian growers’ beans. Professors Rob Shewfelt and Yao-WenHuang, food scientists with the UGA College of Agricultural andEnvironmental Sciences, led the new product development. “One of my former students, Joy Dubost, is now at Penn State, soshe connected us with Greg Ziegler, the chocolate expert there,”Shewfelt said. “We sent him the beans, and he processed them andsent us solidified chocolate liquor. It’s a very highly flavorfulchocolate that smells great and tastes really good.”Brooke Bradshaw, a UGA journalism student, volunteered to developa marketing plan as part of a course assignment. She came up withthe bird-friendly organic chocolate name and designed a logo for theproducts.”The growers are trying to develop products they can market withan organic label and sell upscale,” Shewfelt said. “This way theycan get more money for their crop.”center_img By Sharon OmahenUniversity of GeorgiaWould you buy a particular chocolate brand if it helped save arain forest? Some struggling Ecuadorian cacao growers are bankingyou will.A team of University of Georgia researchers is helping a400-grower co-op in the Choco-Andean corridor of Ecuador findways to market their crop while saving the surrounding rainforest. The project began three years ago with funding from theWorld Bank in Ecuador.”The main goal of the project is to conserve the biodiversity ofthe area,” said Rebeca Justicia, a doctoral student working withUGA Institute of Ecology Professor Ron Carroll. “Our secondarygoal is enhancing the potential of existing crops.”An Ecuador native, Justicia said 700,000 acres of her country aredevoted to cacao plantations. About 5,000 of these acres arewithin the Choco-Andean Corridor.last_img read more