If you plan on making fresh guacamole for a holiday feast this year, you’ll want to know about the problems that Mexican avocado farmers are facing. A drug cartel, known as Caballeros Templarios, or Knight’s Templar, has taken over much of the avocado business in the Michoacán region of the country, shaking down avocado farmers and killing those who won’t cooperate.

Vocativ has the story, and it’s a grim one. Farmers who were wealthy are now barely scraping by after paying the extortion money to the cartel. Try to negotiate with the cartel or refuse to pay, and they’ll kill you or a family member.

It’s a disturbing story, and it’s disturbing to think that the avocados in our grocery store are what Vocativ is calling “blood avocados.” The money we spend on those avocados creates profits for this violent drug cartel.

How can you make sure you’re not buying a blood avocado? The simplest way is to not buy avocados from Mexico. This isn’t a perfect solution, because it’s not all of Mexican avocado industry that’s being run by the drug cartel. Other farmers who aren’t affected by the cartel’s extortion could end up being hurt if all Mexican avocados are avoided.

If you live in a region in the United States that can grow avocados, buy local. If you don’t, look for the country of origin sticker on the avocados at the grocery store. The USDA requires that each avocado has a sticker that indicates its country of origin. Unfortunately, the stickers don’t indicate the region of the country.

If you have any suggestions for avoiding blood avocados without harming farmers in Mexico, please let us hear about them in the comments.

Also on MNN

Robin Shreeves ( @rshreeves ) focuses on food from a family perspective from her home base in New Jersey.

How to avoid buying blood avocados
In Mexico, a drug cartel is extorting money from avocado producers and killing those who won’t pay. There’s no perfect way to avoid buying them.