“Shade-grown” labels often appear on coffee, but these words are not regulated and they don’t tell you much about the actual growing conditions at the farm. Unfortunately, unless it is accompanied by a third-party certification stamp such as the Smithsonian’s “Bird Friendly” on the package, “shade-grown” is often just a marketing buzzword. Some farms grow shade coffee among sparse, heavily pruned trees or under banana crops. These farms often lack diverse forest structure, offer little habitat for songbirds, and require fertilizers and pesticides to keep the coffee growing.
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