Where does your coffee come from? Columbia? Honduras? The Starbuck’s on the corner? Fair enough. But where does it REALLY come from?
Increasingly, land in Central and South American is being clear-cut for coffee plantations that feed our love of the morning brew. That clearing removes all the trees and foliage that many of our migratory songbirds — warblers, orioles, thrushes, tanagers and the like — rely on for food and cover in their winter homes. Most coffee farms are ecological dead zones. Considering that about a third of our native bird populations are in decline and that habitat loss is a primary cause for that decline, the coffee you buy makes a real difference.
That’s where Bird Friendly® coffee comes in. Truly bird-friendly coffees are shade-grown, that is to say, they are grown under a prescribed mix of foliage cover, tree height, and biodiversity that creates habitat for birds and other wildlife, rather than land that has been cleared of all vegetation other than coffee trees. They are 100 percent free of pesticides and chemicals and 100 percent pure, meaning there’s no product dilution with other, non-certified products.
According to the American Birding Association, you can save a tenth of an acre of bird-friendly habitat with each purchase of a pound of shade-grown coffee.
The best coffees for birds are certified by third-party ornithologists using criteria established by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. In short, the scientists visit the shade-grown farms and count the birds there to ensure the farm is providing habitat second only to undisturbed forest. It’s habitat that keeps our migratory birds alive through the winter, so that we have a chance of welcoming them back to our forests and parks the following spring.Most bird-friendly coffees are grown in the highlands of Latin America, but the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is working to encourage habitat certified farms in Ethiopia, India and Thailand.
Over 75% of coffee worldwide is farmed with practices that actively destroys forest habitat. And when those forests disappear, birds disappear, too.
Does it cost more? It’s comparable to other fair-trade product pricing and well worth it to ensure that our migratory birds don’t pay the ultimate price.
For more information on the benefits of shade-grown coffee, visit the Smithsonian’s bird-friendly coffee website. And when shopping for coffee, look for this seal: