An Open Letter To Our Readers
About Our Reviews And The
Environmental Impact of South American Charcoals

There have been posts on various online barbecue-related forums over the last several years regarding brands of charcoal coming from South America. There have been comments that all South American charcoal is bad because the manufacturers are destroying rain forest to make this charcoal. There have been requests that our reviews take this into account and that South American charcoals should be rated as unacceptable or be given a 0.0 rating as a result. There have also been requests that we include environmental information about all the charcoals we review. We thought we should respond to these comments/requests.

The Lump Charcoal Database aims to evaluate lump charcoal products, not the companies that produce the products or the practices of those companies. We don't know of any major product review organizations that include the environmental/labor/etc. practices of manufacturers as a part of their individual product ratings. Consumer Reports' online article on running shoes doesn't even mention Nike's labor practices in the Far East, even though there has been a lot of protest over these practices. We have never seen a review at Digital Photography Review mention the practices of camera manufacturers regarding how they dispose of the nasty chemicals used in the manufacture of electronic components. The ratings we give are intended only to rate the product itself. We think it is up to the reader to decide for themselves what other factors surrounding an individual product might influence their decision to use a product or not. Our ratings cannot take that into account.

Ratings aside, as far as providing information about the manufacture of different brands of charcoal, we don't have the time, skill or ability to hunt down the source of the wood used by each manufacturer in their products. When we have such information, we include it in the review, (see the reviews of Kamado lump, Braseiro, Sierra Madre, and both products from Wicked Good Charcoal) but this information is generally not available to us. Many companies won't reveal to us who makes their charcoal, let alone the type of wood used to make the charcoal, viewing this information as proprietary. Some companies like Cowboy and WW Woods won't even answer our inquiries.

We might also add that simply because a charcoal is manufactured south of the Rio Grande doesn't mean that rain forests are being devastated to produce it. Noram de Mexico, Cikel Brasil, Plantar and the company which produces Wicked Good Charcoal's Weekend Warrior Blend use wood which either comes from forests managed using practices certified by the Forest Stewardship Council or from forests for which certification is in progress. As we don't know which company in Argentina is manufacturing Kingsford's new lump charcoal, we can't assume that the manufacturer of this charcoal (or any other, for that matter) is causing rain forest destruction any more than we can assume that they are managing their forests responsibly.

So, while we appreciate that some readers feel we should include environmental factors in our ratings and they wish to know more about the source of the various brands of charcoal in order to assess the impact of the manufacture of the charcoal on the environment, we don't see our reviews changing in this regard. When we have information, we'll include it in the review. But whether we do or not, it won't be included in the actual rating given.

The Naked Whiz
January 25, 2006


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