Bird Friendly Coffee: The Certification - Allegro Coffee

Bird Friendly Coffee: The Certification

Posted In: All Posts, How We Source

Bird Friendly Coffee


There are 3 billion fewer migratory songbirds now than there were in 1970. A range of different threats are responsible for the decrease in bird populations—one of those threats is coffee farming. The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center developed the Bird Friendly® coffee certification after years of research on migratory birds and the potential coffee farms have to provide birds a habitat.

In 2013, we began our partnership with the Smithsonian to add a Bird Friendly® certified coffee to our lineup. Years later, we are still their longest standing partner and roast the most Bird Friendly® coffee in the country. But what is “Bird Friendly®”? Here, we will break down what the Bird Friendly® Certification means, how farms become certified, and why your purchase of bird friendly coffee makes such a difference.


A bird friendly coffee farm, Selva Negra, in Nicaragua.

The History of Bird Friendly  

In the late 1990s, Dr. Robert Rice spearheaded the Bird Friendly® coffee initiative with his colleague, Dr. Russ Greenberg, in partnership with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. This became Rice’s main focus, which he worked to grow for decades, creating global reach from coffee areas in Latin America and Africa. Now, there are Bird Friendly® coffee farms in 12 countries, with more than 4,600 participating coffee producers, and more than 31,000 acres of protected land. With more than 19 million pounds of Bird Friendly® coffee roasted around the world each year, it currently comes from mostly Latin American coffee countries, but the Smithsonian is working to expand their certification across the globe.


What Bird Friendly Coffee Means

For decades, coffee farmers believed that the more coffee they could grow, the better it would be for them and their families. This resulted in mass deforestation to make room for more coffee plants. A recent study from Smithsonian shows that the U.S. and Canada have lost nearly one in four migratory birds. Many of these birds migrate to coffee producing regions, and when they have no trees to migrate to, we experience a loss in population. To educate farmers and give them incentive to keep the trees on their farms, obtaining a Bird Friendly® certification gives them a way to differentiate their coffee and earn a premium.

Illustration of yellow warbler, with a reminder to drink Certified Bird Friendly coffee.

How Farms Become Certified

To start, farms must already grow Certified Organic coffee to apply for a Bird Friendly® certification. This is because the practice of organic farming helps the biodiversity of the farms, which also helps build healthy habitats for birds. Next is the audit; the Smithsonian Museum partners with several companies around the world to perform audits. During the first year, a team of experts from Smithsonian also visit the farms to ensure the audits are being done correctly. To become certified, farmers must have 40% shade from trees and 11 tree species per plot of land. In addition to the tree, shade, and organic requirements, there must be no sign of deforestation in the past 10 years. Once the audit is performed and the farm passes, they are able to sell their coffee with the Bird Friendly® seal.


When Farmers Don’t Have Enough Trees

While the Smithsonian believes that natural forestation is the best way to achieve a Bird Friendly® certification, they are more than happy to work with farmers who don’t have enough trees. They have several programs that help farmers acquire more trees and work towards the certification.


Benefit of Bird Friendly

Bird Friendly® coffee isn’t just good for birds, it’s good for farmers, too. Similar to the Rainforest Alliance Certification, the diverse and bountiful trees on Bird Friendly® farms create healthy ecosystems full of small mammals and insects. The increase in birds on farms provide additional pest control and the healthy, rich soil helps farmers achieve higher yields of coffee and increase the quality of their coffee. Having the Bird Friendly® certification also means farmers gain access to new markets and receive a premium for their coffee. The increase in quality also helps farmers sell their coffee for a higher price.

Bag of Organic Early Bird Blend, a Smithsonian Bird Friendly Certified medium roast coffee.

Organic Early Bird Blend

When Dr. Rice reached out to us in 2013, he believed that adding a Bird Friendly® coffee to our lineup would appeal to our consumers, and we agreed. We want to give people the opportunity to support wildlife conservation with their coffee purchase. While many roasters in support of this program offer single origin coffees from one farm, we ultimately decided that creating a blend would help more farms across the world and allow us to grow our production of this coffee as we grew ourselves. Now, our Organic Early Bird Blend is sourced from Bird Friendly® farms in Peru, Colombia, Guatemala, and Nicaragua contributing to 250,000lbs of roasted coffee annually.


Better For Everyone

No matter what coffee we source or the farm we source from, we make sure that our purchase and the price we pay benefits the farmer. When we find a great farm that is also Bird Friendly® certified, we know the farmers work to take care of the land they are growing on and the animals and environment around them. Bird Friendly® benefits the farmer in many ways while helping our flying friends. When you buy our Organic Early Bird Blend, you are helping farmers, helping birds, and supporting the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and their advanced Bird Friendly® coffee research.


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