By Gustave Axelson
You may also be interested in our main page about Bird Friendly, organic, and shade-grown coffees.
Smithsonian-certified Bird Friendly coffee is the strictest standard for shade-grown, organic coffees, but it can be hard to find in stores. This became somewhat easier in June 2013, when Whole Foods Markets began carrying Bird Friendly–labeled coffee in their 300+ stores across the U.S. and Canada.
The coffee is the Early Bird Blend from Allegro Coffee. Its beans come from Bird-Friendly certified coffee farms in Nicaragua and Mexico that provide forestlike habitat for birds.
As we reported in October, Bird Friendly coffee makes up less than 1 percent of total U.S. coffee sales. In a further twist, only an estimated 10 percent of Bird Friendly certified coffee beans actually carry the Bird Friendly label on the package, because retailers often opt to put more widely recognized (but less stringent) labels on the packages (see our guide to sustainable coffee labels).
But now, Whole Foods is running a test to give Bird Friendly coffee more exposure, and perhaps make the Bird Friendly label more recognizable to consumers. Christy Thorns of Allegro Coffee explained: “We had been buying from [Bird Friendly] certified farms and co-ops for a while, but had never tried to promote the coffee with the Bird Friendly label. Typically these coffees had been sold with… Organic Fair Trade labels or Organic Rainforest Alliance labels, because they are more recognized by consumers. However, I felt we should give the Bird Friendly seal a try and see if consumers connect with it.”
Robert Rice, a research scientist at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (which created the Bird-Friendly certification criteria), hopes birders will show retailers that there is a strong market for Bird Friendly coffee. Rice encourages people to thank the store managers at Whole Foods for carrying Bird Friendly coffee in their stores (or if they don’t find the Early Bird Blend, to ask managers about it). He also is interested in hearing from people about their experiences looking for Early Bird Blend coffee at Whole Foods.
In addition to Whole Foods, you can find Bird Friendly coffee at the stores in this Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center list. You can also order Bird Friendly coffee online from many roasters, including Birds & Beans.
(Image courtesy Allegro Coffee.)