Identified by MSN's Lifestyle website as a "responsible and verified" eco-label, Bird Friendly® (BF) refers to organic certified coffee grown on farms with a shade cover that provides substantial habitat for migratory and resident birds in tropical landscapes. This program linking science, conservation, and the marketplace is unique within the Smithsonian Institution.
Created in the late 1990s by the staff of the SMBC at the National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C., the BF certification mark and seal of approval is based on ornithological research in several Latin American countries. The science-based criteria forming the standards for shade-tree management on coffee farms are biophysical in nature. Tree height of the canopy over the coffee, the diversity of the trees being managed, and the foliage cover, among other things, all are part of these biophysical aspects.
The underlying rationale is that if the habitat is there, then birds will use it and benefit from it-even if it is an agricultural setting. Interestingly, a lot of farms in Latin America meet the criteria and do provide large areas of suitable habitat for many birds-a claim that not many agricultural systems can make. Of course, natural forest must also be protected, as many bird and other animal species will never use shade-coffee farms as habitat. But for those that do, these farms are an excellent examples of managed landscapes with economic value AND environmental value.
The number of farms and farmers, as well as the total amount of BF coffee in the market varies, depending upon the expiration and renewal of certifications. In 2007, some 35 farms or cooperatives are producing BF coffee, all of which is certified organic (as a pre-requisite for the BF seal) and much of which-in the co-ops, at least-is fair trade. These coffees allow for the increasingly popular "triple certification" coffee: organic, fair trade, and shade certified. All told, some 2,400 producers with 7,600 hectares of certified shade-coffee area are bringing more than eight million pounds of BF coffee to the market.
At the consumer end, SMBC works with 20 importers and more than 40 roasters to provide conservation-oriented coffee drinkers with a certified shade-grown coffee. Most of these are in North America, and include the Fred Meyer stores of the northwest (owned by Kroger) and outstanding regional roasters such as Caffe Ibis in Utah. Japan is a growing market, too, thanks to the efforts of Sumitomo Corporation, an importer that recognizes the importance of a science-based set of standards for sustainable or "conservation" coffee.
SMBC staff periodically conducts training workshops for organic-certification inspectors interested in learning how to evaluate shade. To date, more than 100 people in several Latin American countries have received instruction in how to inspect shade-coffee farms using the Bird Friendly® criteria. At the time of this writing (July, 2007) plans are in place to move outside the Americas and into other coffee regions, certifying the coffee farms on other continents. Ethiopia is an example, where coffee farmers there have expressed keen interest in getting their shade certified as Bird Friendly®. Stay tuned And Be Certain. Buy Certified.
Listed on MSN's Lifestyle website as a "Responsible and Verified" eco-label, "Bird Friendly®" (BF) refers to [certified organic] coffee produced on farms with a shade cover that provides substantial habitat for migratory and resident birds in tropical landscapes. This program linking science, conservation, and the marketplace is unique within the Smithsonian Institution.
"Bird Friendly®" coffee is currently being imported into the Japanese market by Sumitomo Corporation, and roasted by Ogawa Coffee of Kyoto, Camel Coffee of Tokyo, and Nippon Coffee of Tokyo. In the U.S., Fred Meyer, a West Coast supermarket chain, carries "Bird Friendly®" coffee in the organic/nutrition section of all of its 130 stores.
SMBC is involved in training coffee technicians and organic inspectors, more than 100 of whom have participated in a training workshop. SMBC conducts such workshops every year in producing countries.
The main challenge currently: expanding the US market for "Bird Friendly®" coffee by marketing the concept and brand.