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Smithsonian Adds Bird Friendly Certification for Chocolate

From the Spring 2023 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

A partially-unwrapped Zorzal Coconut Milk chocolate bar surrounded by pieces of coconut.
Photo courtesy Raaka Chocolate.

There is now a clear way to choose chocolate that will satisfy both your sweet tooth and your environmental ethic. The Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute has expanded its Bird Friendly certification program to include standards for cacao farming.

The new certification guarantees 100% of the cocoa in a given product comes from farms that protect forests and native shade trees—strategies proven to improve habitat for birds and other wildlife. “Cocoa production can conserve migratory birds and resident tropical birds and benefit farmers,” says Ruth Bennett, research ecologist for the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and a former postdoctoral researcher at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Research published in 2021 in Conservation Biology led by Bennett found that cacao farms with 30% to 40% canopy cover and diverse shade trees maintained similar bird species diversity to native, undisturbed forests. Zorzal Cacao, a 1,019-acre bird reserve in the heart of the Dominican Republic, is the first cacao farm to receive the Bird Friendly certification (see First-Of-Its-Kind Reserve for Bicknell’s Thrush in the Dominican Republic, Living Bird, Autumn 2018).

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center first created its Bird Friendly certification standard for coffee more than 20 years ago. “Cocoa is the second crop certified by our long-standing program,” says Scott Sillett, director of the SMBC. “Now, both coffee and chocolate lovers can live Bird Friendly while indulging in their favorite treats.”

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library

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