What’s the difference between shade-grown, organic, fair-trade, and Bird-Friendly coffee?

April 1, 2009
Look for labels on your coffee to find out if your cup of joe helps protect bird habitat. Look for labels on your coffee to find out if your cup of joe helps protect bird habitat.
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The organic and fair-trade certifications are laudable programs that give you some confidence about the environmental and social conditions at the coffee farm. However, they don’t expressly safeguard habitat, particularly shade coffee, for migrant songbirds. The Cornell Lab views them as a good intermediate level of sustainable coffee, but there are better options.

Bird Friendly coffee is certified according to standards set by scientists at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. To earn the certification, farms must meet rigorous standards for dense forest shade cover, multiple layers of forest structure, and the presence of epiphytes, which are indicators of forest plant and insect diversity.

The Bird Friendly stamp is a triple certification, because it also meets organic and fair-trade requirements. The Cornell Lab views Bird Friendly as the gold standard of coffee certifications, and we encourage all coffee-drinking bird watchers to use Bird Friendly coffee.

Learn more about Bird Friendly coffee and find out where to buy it in stores or online at our main page about Bird Friendly, organic, and shade-grown coffees.

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