Photo: Choose bird-friendly coffee and cocoa

Red-crested cardinal (Credit: PJLewis via Flickr)

Millions of acres of land have been cleared worldwide to grow coffee and cacao (aka cocoa — the chocolate bean), effectively evicting all the forest inhabitants, including Boreal birds. Farmers who are producing either of these crops as a monoculture — ie. only growing one thing in their fields — use plants bred to love the sun, so they will flourish in direct sunlight. But these require chemical fertilizers and pesticides.

Shade-grown plants, on the other hand, happily thrive in their natural habitat — under the rainforest canopy — where fertilizer is organic leaf litter and insects are controlled by natural predators such as bats and birds. "Bird-friendly" plantations not only offer some of the last remaining refuge areas for hundreds of species of birds, they allow farmers to grow other crops as a hedge against weather hardships, pests and diseases.

Next time you shop for coffee or chocolate, look for these labels:

Fair trade

Fair Trade logoFair trade means farmers are paid for what they grow based on internationally recognized standards on wages, labour rights, working conditions and prices. It's a practice that helps promote sustainable agriculture around the world, supporting farmer co-ops, housing, health and safety standards, and preventing forced child labour.

Bird friendly

Bird Friendly logoThis refers to coffee or cacao (aka cocoa — the chocolate bean) grown under the rainforest canopy, in habitat where birds thrive, fertilizer is organic leaf litter and insects are controlled by natural predators such as bats and birds. Also called shade-grown, this label distinguishes its products from monoculture crops that require chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Bird friendly beans are also organic — grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers. (There is also certified shade grown, which is not necessarily organic, but is definitely preferable to sun coffee.) If you can't find products with the logo pictured here, then look for shade grown, organic and fair trade certifications!

Check out this resource on shade-grown coffee.