According to surveys, few bird watchers buy bird-friendly coffee

In a recent survey of bird watchers who drink coffee, only 9 percent of more than 900 respondents said they bought Smithsonian bird-friendly coffee and 38 percent said they were familiar with it.

In contrast, 50 percent buy organic coffee and 52 percent buy fair trade coffee, which contains standards for work and environmental practices.

Bird-friendly coffee is grown in the shade, which means it is grown and harvested under the canopy of old trees. This process corresponds to the historical cultivation of coffee. Today, most farms in Central and South America and the Caribbean operate full sun farms that grow coffee faster but lose habitats for migratory and resident birds.

The study, published this week in the journal People and Nature, was conducted by researchers from Virginia Tech College of Natural Resources and Environment, Cornell University, Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and Columbia University.

“Our estimate is in line with the other two studies we’re familiar with when it comes to buying bird-friendly coffee,” said Ashley Dayer of Virginia Tech. “A 2017 found that 4 percent of US respondents bought bird-friendly coffee, and a 1999 study found that 17 percent of US respondents were keen to buy shade-grown coffee if the description was bird habitat protection included. I wouldn’t expect actual buying behavior to be as high as interest, as we know that often people don’t respond to their interests or intentions. We expected a bird watcher study to be higher than the US population in general (and it was) – but we weren’t sure by how much. “

Not in most grocery stores

The study also found that “49% of bird watchers consider migratory habitat conservation a required product condition.” However, the researchers note that “if about half of the current US bird watcher population would buy avian-friendly coffee, almost.” 23 million bird watchers would buy bird-friendly coffee “. The actual number is much lower.

One reason is lack of availability.

“Our results suggest a problem where bird-friendly coffee is not available everywhere and is preventing people from buying it,” says Dayer. “From personal experience as a bird-friendly coffee drinker, it is difficult when you no longer have it, not to simply pick it up at the supermarket. Often times, you have to place an order online and wait for it. When I was working at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, our gift shop was selling it and that made it a lot easier to drink consistently. “

In fact, the places where most of the coffee is sold – supermarkets and cafes – rarely offer bird-friendly varieties.

The new study doesn’t look at how to make more bird-friendly coffee widely available, but Dayer has some ideas.

“I know of coffee cooperatives that buy in bulk and work in some places, especially through bird clubs,” she says. “Some zoos are now offering bird-friendly coffee in their cafes (and colleagues are researching whether this is changing consumer behavior at home). A student paper from the University of Texas at Austin suggested that consumers could ask retailers to stock bird-friendly coffee and even provide them with information on how to do it. I agree that this is a good idea, and I suspect it will be more effective in small health food stores than in larger grocery chains. But it’s worth trying wherever you go shopping. “

Learn more about coffee and birds on the Julie Craves Coffee & Conservation website.

The real cost of coffee

Why bird watchers should #DrinkBirdFriendly

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