Julie Craves certainly touched a nerve. In the article The True Cost of Coffee, she describes the connection between the coffee you drink and the habitat that migratory birds rely on during the winter.
She explains why coffee grown in the shade is better for birds than cheap, high-density, high-yield sun coffee, and she argues that the abundant benefits to birds of environmentally friendly coffee more than compensate for its higher cost and any inconvenience you may experience finding it.
The article provoked lots of mail, and many questions, when it appeared in the February 2013 issue of BirdWatching magazine. This was the question we were asked most often: Is my favorite brand bad for birds?
The companies listed below are what Julie calls the “Big Four” — large commodity roasters at the root of much habitat destruction. They buy nearly two million tons of coffee annually, of which less than 8 percent carries any sort of certification. Most is attributable to Kraft, which has introduced sustainability into a portion of its offerings recently (less than 10 percent, most sold in Europe).
In general, Julie says, if you are buying one of these brands, you are contributing directly to the destruction of bird habitat.
The Big Four:
Nestlé — Nescafé, Nescafé Clásico, Nespresso, Taster’s Choice. The company recently stated that they have “no plans to market certified coffee to consumers.”
Smucker’s — Folgers, Millstone, Dunkin’ Donuts, Cafe Pilon, Cafe Bustelo, Java Coast
Kraft Foods — Yuban, Maxwell House, General Foods International Coffee, Gevalia, Kenco, Maxim, Tassimo, Nabob, Sanka
Massimo Zanetti — Chock full o’Nuts, Chase & Sanborn, Hills Bros., MJB
Julie Craves answers readers’ questions about birds in “Since You Asked” in every issue of BirdWatching magazine. Send a question to Julie. She describes her work at the Rouge River Bird Observatory on the blog Net Results, and she writes about coffee on her acclaimed blog Coffee and Conservation.