At some point in the past decade, America went crazy for avocados. Those green fruits became the healthy/trendy crowd’s meth.
Not too many years ago most people would have been making an educated guess if they identified avocado as the base for guacamole – now you can’t swing a kale leaf without hitting a health food guru touting avocado creations.
The green bumpy looking fruits, mostly from Mexico, are showing up everywhere, with growers aggressively marketing them as a “super food.” When you have people making a Mexican food staple into ice cream you know organic hell has broken loose.
Avocados are eaten three meals a day in everything from smoothies to sandwiches. Avocaderia, a new restaurant in New York, opened this month serving nothing but avocados in all the forms imaginable.
This madness is best captured in a funny 2013 Subway commercial where two women try to outdo each other declaring their undying devotion to the fruit. The winning woman finally introduces her son, Avocado.
The hype is so widespread that one British publication termed it the “overcado.”
This constant marketing/hipness paid off for avocado sellers. According to the Agricultural Marketing Resource Center website, consumption of avocados has “increased significantly from 1.1 pounds per capita in 1989 to a record 7 pounds per capita in 2014.” Wikipedia cited this trend, US per capita consumption has grown from 2 pounds in 2001 to 7 pounds in 2016.
Not bad business for something that was once known in the U.S. as the “alligator pear” and originally had a Spanish name judged too hard to pronounce by Americans, so marketers renamed it the avocado.
The problem with this new-found addiction (and what else could we call it when people are spreading it on toast?) is that avocados are only grown in a few places. A New York Times article stated, “nearly 80 percent of those avocados came from Michoacán, the only Mexican state authorized to export the fruit” because of concerns of pests in other areas of Mexico. Other South American countries grow some and California does as well, but not enough to meet the skyrocketing demand.
Unfortunately, Michoacán’s main avocado breeding area is also the key migration stop for western monarch butterflies. Those cool orange-and-black butterflies are being decimated out west because Mexican farmers are cutting every tree in sight to grow more avocados to feed a trend that will probably be as dead as acai berry elixir and pomegranate-love by the time their avocado trees grow. [Note: eastern monarchs migrate to Florida.]
Those awesome butterflies travel all the way from Canada (multi-generational flights). But instead of finding their usual over-wintering trees they are going to find a bunch of avocados rotting in the field because American foodies will probably have changed their love-affair to beets or guava (whatever that is). One online publication predicts cauliflower will be the next shining star in the fitness firmament.
The same New York Times article found that between 1974 and 2011, about 110,000 acres of forest across Michoacán’s central highlands were turned into avocado orchards, according to a study by the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
It’s not that we are suddenly butterfly huggers and we admit to liking guacamole. It’s not purely environmental reason this is noxious; it’s mainly the whole trend-following culture that gets us riled up. In this case it’s further so, because you know many of these avocado devotees would launch into a foodie diatribe over someone eating a Big Mac. Just look at quinoa, similarly hip foodie fare. The Peruvian grain tripled in price between 2000 and 2014. The UN even branded 2013 as the International Year of Quinoa.
As with so many things, our culture-obsessed society pounces with mouths wide-open on what’s popular at the moment – as though all you have to do to be healthy and hip is eat avocados. Show a couple of celebrities with toned bodies slicing avocado into a blender and the next thing you know a population of butterflies is wiped out.