It’s tough to know what businesses to patronize and which not to when looking at issues beyond basic quality. Some folks won’t do business with anti-union companies, others won’t support manufacturers with CEOs who contribute to Democrats. You could go nuts figuring out which businesses warrant a personal boycott and which deserve support. But if there’s one standard that I suspect everybody can agree on, it’s that it’s wrong to buy products produced using slave labor.
As The New Yorker exposed in 2003, an enormous amount of the orange juice sold in the United States is made with oranges picked by slaves. As a big fan of OJ, I wanted to make sure that my daily fix isn’t keeping people in bondage. From reading the article, I knew that Tropicana and Minute Maid were out of the question. Florida’s Natural was unwilling to affirm that their juice is produced without slave labor, which was a shame, since that was my brand of choice. Organic Valley, however, had no problem telling me that their juice is slavery-free, so that’s the brand that I’ve bought ever since. (It’s $5 for a half gallon, so I’ve had to drastically reduce the size of my average glass.) It is, happily, excellent juice.
I recently contacted the Orchid Island Juice Company, inquiring as to their business practices after I discovered that my grocer carriers their juice. They promote themselves as a Christian business, and I’d explained in the letter that, commensurate with that, I expected that they’d go to great lengths to ensure that all of their fruit is picked by fairly compensated workers. I received the following response.
Thank you for your letter. Orchid Island Juice Company is a small family owned and operated specialty Florida citrus juice company that has been squeezing fruit for over 15 years. The family consists of 5th generation citrus growers on the Indian River. We own or control over 20,000 acres of groves. Besides having a family oriented company we are honored Christians and thank God for all his blessings. There have been many times that we have been asked about automatic parts of our production process as we grow but consistently decline where people are involved. One of our objectives is to provide good jobs for our community. It is one of our obligations.
You are correct in saying that we oppose slavery.
We have had relationships with our growers for many years. These growers assure us that they have fruit picked in accordance with state and federal wage standards.
It is an honor communicating with people that care for others such as you do. We should be thankful to have someone like you as a customer.
Vice President of Service & Logistics
So now there are two brands of orange juice that can be bought in good conscience, Orchid Island and Organic Valley. Good for these companies for maintaining the reasonable business practices that their competition seem unable to manage.