Biodynamic Cacao: New Trend in Chocolate?

Categories: Interview
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Biodynamic cacao is grown according to regulations stricter than those required for organic certification.

To understand biodynamic agriculture, consider egg labeling. "Free-range" stamps previously suggested eggs laid by chickens raised on pastures. Then, it turned out, they were laid by chickens with access to the outdoors. Whether they spent time outside was (and still is) arguable. 

As demand for sustainable eggs increased, farmers evolved the lexicon. Eventually, terms such as cage-free and free-roaming came into use. Then the word pastured was born.

In a similar way, the biodynamic movement wants to go beyond the overused term organic. Santiago Peralta, founder of the organic and biodynamic-certified, bean-to-bar, award-winning, Ecuadorian Pacari Chocolate, who was in Miami this weekend for the International Chocolate Festival at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, believes biodynamic agriculture is a step beyond organic. It yields a superior product. He also thinks it's the future trend in chocolate -- and sustainable agriculture.

"Biodynamic agriculture is based on the philosophies of Rudolf Steiner, who launched a more holistic way of agriculture. It's an anthroposophical movement -- a new way of thinking," Peralta says. "It's much more homeopathic than organic, and much more esoteric than organic."

Established in the 1920s, biodynamic agriculture steers away from the view of the farm as a factory. Its goal is not to boost production or sales, but to achieve biodiversity and abide by natural rules, lunar phases, and planetary cycles. Farms are to focus on self-renewing practices and self-dependance. Fertilizers are not to be imported. Instead, they are to be developed naturally from products from inside the farm, with specially prepared medicinal plants, minerals, and composted animal manure. Biodynamic fertilizers are often compared to homeopathic remedies for humans.

According to Demeter Association, Inc., which certifies Pacari chocolates, farms must first comply with organic principles to be certified biodynamic. Then there are other requirements. Certified farms must have 10 percent of their land set aside as a biodiversity reserve. There must be perennial planting schemes. Fertility systems must be generated from life within the farm (using legumes in crop rotation, composting, etc.).

It's complicated, but Peralta says his farmers prefer biodynamic practices. They don't need to purchase fertilizers and other preparations from third-party suppliers.

"The good thing about this is that the farmers can do it all by themselves. A cow can produce enough manure in one day to make enough preparations for 500 acres. This is just the most sustainable way of agriculture that I know," he says.

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