The label means that the farm where the coffee was grown qualifies as “bird friendly habitat” as defined by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. The standards promote environmental sustainability of coffee farms and protect biodiversity, with a special focus on providing shelter and food for migratory birds. Coffee farms are also required to be certified organic. The label is verified and highly meaningful.
Is the label verified?
Is the meaning of the label consistent?
Are the label standards publicly available?
Is information about the organization publicly available?
Is the organization free from conflict of interest?
Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
This label can be found on: coffee
ORGANIZATION: Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Note: Bird Friendly has a new seal (see above) but you may still see the old seal (right).
What this label means
The Bird Friendly label can be found on coffee, and means that the farm where the coffee is grown meets the standards developed by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. The standards aim to promote environmental sustainability of coffee farms and protect biodiversity, with a special focus on providing shelter and food for migratory birds. The Bird Friendly label means that the coffee is “shade-grown,” and verifies that the farm qualifies as “bird friendly habitat.” The label’s standards require a variety of native shade trees be grown throughout the coffee plantation. These shade trees create a forest-like environment with many ecological benefits.
Organic certification is a baseline criteria for Bird Friendly certification. The Smithsonian Bird Friendly standards require at least 40% canopy cover over the farm, a minimum number of different tree species including native species in the upper layers of the canopy, a minimum height of the canopy, vegetative buffer zones next to rivers and lakes, and soil management practices.
Because the Bird Friendly standards require organic certification, it also means that synthetic fertilizers and nearly all synthetic pesticides are prohibited.
Why it matters
Coffee farms typically can cut many trees in order to increase yields from coffee crops. The loss of trees and native vegetation to make room for coffee plantations means a loss of habitat for animals, including migratory birds. For many migratory songbirds and other tropical animals whose populations are declining, coffee farms with diverse tree canopies offer important habitat. Although not a replacement for native forest, shade coffee can provide the last refuge for species threatened by the removal of original forest cover.
Studies have shown many ecological benefits of shade-grown coffee farms, including improved bird habitat, soil erosion control, carbon sequestration, natural pest control and improved pollination.
How meaningful is this label?
The rigorous standards behind the Bird Friendly label ensure that certified coffee farms integrate coffee cultivation into agroforestry systems and protect biodiversity. The requirement for organic certification means that coffee farms already meet a comprehensive set of sustainability standards, which include a prohibition on the use of synthetic pesticides, synthetic fertilizers, and a requirement for soil management. The Smithsonian’s Bird Friendly label requires not only shade trees and canopy cover amidst the coffee plants, but requires vegetative and structural diversity (for example, trees of different heights and different species).