Reflecting on 5 Years being Palm Oil Free

Warning!  These images reflect the consequences of our blind consumerism. 

Whether you join us or not, we are not buying anything with palm oil. Because we are not going to feed the monster.

Single organgutan in the last tree standing after deforestation for palm oil
Palm oil is UBIQUITOUS! It the preferred oil for the 10 Food companies responsible for almost all global brands

Most of you will not be able to watch this.  If you can even bear to scan this article about the film you may be forever changed.

" 'She has lost everything': Filmmaker's heart-wrenching documentary shows tragic final hours of orangutan's life as her rainforest home is ruthlessly destroyed"

On "Sustainable" Palm Oil, we say NO!

The palm oil industry has taken over the resistance to palm oil claiming that we need palm oil and that it is better to produce it sustainably.  I will write a specific rebuttal in the coming weeks.   But for now, it is our position that sustainable palm oil is a ruse by "big agriculture" and "big food" to silence opposition and continue business as usual.  Their so called certification fails all three tests of a credible certification:

  1. a public standard set to achieve a purpose with monitoring against its effectiveness
  2. chain of custody traceability
  3. verification by an independent third party

It has been 5 years since Birds and Beans Café went completely palm oil free.  David and I went palm oil free at home at the same time.  So we thought it would be interesting to discuss how its going with us as well as look at what has changed in the industry.

The palm oil problem is the shocking destruction of forests perpetrated in its production.  These forests are often taken from indigenous peoples without permission nor compensation and laid waste for all but the gluttonous palm oil industry.  Of special notice, is the horrifying pain and suffering faced by displaced animals, most of whom are endangered species.   I doubt most readers can tolerate looking at the images.  

When David and I came to understand this in 2012, at a visceral level, our resolve kicked in: Under no circumstances will we support this monstrous behavior!

So this is not a crusade, nor do I imagine our stance or communication will make a meaningful impact on the industry.  But my body and my soul ache for the pain we inflict, and I will not support it.  

At first it was difficult to find products without palm.  Palm oil ingredients are UBIQUITOUS!  And big food sneaks it into the ingredient lists so we have to learn to recognize it.

Once we understood that "vegetable oil" is a cover for palm oil, we realized that palm is in most processed foods (and most consumer soaps and cleaners).  For health reasons we were also motivated to reduce salt and we noticed that most processed foods are loaded with salt (and sugar) too.  It was overwhelming!  Where to begin!  

We took a step at a time approach.  We looked at

  1. what we purchased the most
  2. what we didn't need

We found processed foods that use sunflower, safflower or other explicitly stated oil1.  You won't find these at the 7-11, but most responsible grocery stores have something.  We continued item by item.  

Over time, perhaps a year, we found we were preparing our own food again.  This would have seemed impossible at the beginning of this process, but by changing one thing at a time, it happened on its own.  We shifted our shopping from the big grocery retailers to smaller organic grocers.  Interestingly, by bringing our food preparation back in-house, we found it was less expensive too!

We noticed that the huge loads of sugar, salt and fats in processed foods dull our flavour pallets, so it took some time for our pallets to recover back to full taste sensitivity. Now, I just cannot eat a conventional tomato... they are bland and pithy.  

The food processing industry has convinced us that we need them, but we don't.  The cost of outsourcing our food preparation is extremely high and it does not save as much time as we imagine.  We have now established new shopping habits and we support local grocers and organic production. Preparing food has shifted to a shared pleasure followed by the shared delight of real flavours! My fear of living on chickpeas and rice was utterly unfounded...Quite the opposite! That fear was planted by big food to keep me addicted to their low quality, bland, unhealthy food that is engineered to their lowest cost.  

And by their lowest cost, I mean the unfathomable cost of the utter destruction of entire ecosystems and the human and animal inhabitants. The cost of life on earth.  And the cost of all of us becoming monstrous.  Cheap oil?  Really?

If you got to here, now you know.  You can never go back.  What you do now is who you are.

  1. Since banning palm oil from our diet and the café, we have since banned GMO foods.  Over 90% of canola oil is GMO, so now it is banned from our diet and the café too.

 

 

 

Now Serving Cheese and Dill Scone!

We are proud to offer this unique scone made with all organic ingredients.  What a delicious and beautifully textured scone it is!  Great for breakfast or lunch.

The organic ingredients mean that it, like all of our baking, our great new scone 100% GMO free and 100% cruelty free.  These important qualities are shared by everything we bake. 

We believe that honouring our core values results in better taste and better health.  

 

Cheese & Dill
Scone

*Flour,  *Butter, *Sugar, Honey, *Yogurt, *Eggs, *Cream, *Cheese, *Dill, Baking Powder, Salt

* Organic

GMO Free Eats

At Birds and Beans, it is our pleasure and our aspiration to harness all of our resources and efforts to do better.  And for us, better means in alignment with our core values: quality of life, sustainability, richness of experience, and community.

We express this in our handmade food: all of our ingredients are 100% GMO free.  

Our reasons are simple: Genetically Modified Organisms are developed by "Big Ag" (big agriculture) for "Big Food".  Their only interest is profit.  I do not have a problem with profit, I just have a problem when the pursuit of profit is at the expense of all other factors, has negative impacts or risks.   

In the case of GMOs, the scientists working for "Big Ag" developed strains of agricultural products like corn and soy, with the sole purpose of withstanding higher applications of agrochemical inputs.  It works nicely for them as they both sell the seeds and sell the chemicals.  

Lest there be any reader who is under the impression that current levels of agrochemical application are sustainable, pesticides and chemical fertilizers wreak havoc on ecosystems as do fertilizers.

Nor are GMO crops necessary.  Leading expert Pablo Tittonell advocates intensification of agriculture by making optimal use of natural processes and the landscape to meet the worlds growing demand for food.  See his TED talk here.

On the GMOs themselves, in matters of unknown and unknowable risk, I am an advocate of the "precautionary principle".  Those who profit the most from GMOs claim that their genetically modified organisms represent incremental change on selective breeding is disingenuous and is intended to deflect scrutiny. The reality is that the risks of this revolutionary technology not understood by policy makers and are generally unaddressed by GMO patent holders.  See this insightful article.

Further, the GMOs that "Big Ag" have chosen to produce are motivated by their quest to maximize profits and not by the public good.  For those of us who may think that this is a small problem and that most of the food in the food system is not GMO, almost all big food contains GMO ingredients. It has taken considerable effort and focus to ensure no GMO ingredients creep into Birds and Beans. 

And Finally, GMO crops have failed to meet their promise. An extensive examination by The New York Times [reveals] genetic modification [...] has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides.

GMO's are designed to benefit "Big Ag" profit takers.  They have no obvious benefit to the public.  They are just not worth the risk.

At Birds and Beans we use 100% of our choices to support our values, and in this case, be assured that no food item prepared in Birds and Beans contains GMO ingredients.  We may be a tiny family owned and operated company, and we have no illusions about changing the trajectory of "Big Ag" and "Big Food", but we do steadfastly oppose the trend through mindful disengagement from "Big Food". 

 

Show us your Mimico Joe!

Show us your Mimico Joe! Use the hashtag #MimicoJoe to be entered in our monthly draw for Birds & Beans Gift cards and Mimico Joe T-shirts. 

Mimico is our home and we love it, which is why it deserves to have its very own coffee blend. Let’s celebrate it.

Share your pics of Mimico, Birds and Beans coffee cups, Birds and Beans coffee bags.  Be sure to tag them #MimicoJoe on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to enter. All winners must be able to pick up their prize in person at our Café … in Mimico.

And the t-shirt! It’s a good one:  made in CANADA out of an Organic Cotton/Bamboo Blend and is available in Men’s and Ladies' styles for only 24.95 each! 

Introducing Mimico Joe

A muskrat in Humber Bay Park.
About 15 years ago, we established Birds and Beans on the shores of Lake Ontario in Mimico.   Although at that time Mimico was rather down on its luck, battered by the loss of its industrial base and suffering from the lure of malls and big box stores, we fell in love with soul of Mimico.
The now demolished building has become the site of Mimico Square.

We saw a diverse neighbourhood full of hard working, long term residents who shared a connection with the lake, a pride in what had come before, and vision of the future. So we set down our roots and began working towards that future. And then around us, slowly at first, then more and more, Mimico began to thrive! The neighbourhood feels energized by life in the new condominums, and the residents are enjoying the ever improving Mimico waterfront, new storefronts, and Mimico's evolving character.  

We are expressing our love of Mimico by introducing a coffee blended and named for our 'hood!  Perhaps the first coffee to celebrate its home neighbourhood, Mimico Joe is approachable, unpretentious, authentic, solid, and full of interest... just like Mimico.

We also offer Mimico Joe t-shirts for those of us who are proud Mimico Joes.

A great shot of the cafe by photographer Justin Blathwayt.

Café by the Lake Menu Choices

Come in to Birds and Beans Coffee and treat yourself to something special! Our coffees are all certified organic, bird friendly,  and fairly traded, boutique coffees. We use Organic Meadow Milk in our latté and cappuccino. Treat yourself with 100% shade grown shaved chocolate on your specialty drink. Even our milk table offers organic milk and sugar. We're the real deal!

Choose one of Four Freshly Roasted Brewed Coffees

Every day we offer four brewed coffees. Our menu board identifies the coffees on brew and their roasted dates — always within the last few weeks.

Our house coffee, the Daily, is a certified Organic-Bird Friendly® coffee with enough interest for every coffee lover.

You can also choose from our daily Organic-Bird Friendly® bold coffeefeature coffee or decaf.

100% Bird Friendly, Organic Specialty Coffees with Organic Milk

screenshot-2016-12-07-10-44-53We offer the best espresso, latté, cappucino and americano in the city made from the only Bird Friendly espresso in Canada! We blend our espresso to compliment the flavours the organic milk in a latté or cappucino. Our baristas are trained to pour espresso perfectly every time so it has the great great crema and aroma with flavours of chocolate and malt from the approach to the finish.

Cruelty Free GMO Free Treats

We bake all of our treats from scratch daily using organic eggs from happy hens (see Chicken Out!), organic dairy from happy cows,  and 100% GMO Free ingredients. Our breakfast cookie is a daily favourite in the neighbourhood with rolled oats, hazelnuts, sunflower seeds, honey and cranberries.  

Our chocolate chunk cookies are absolutely without rival! We use our shade grown Plantations Chocolate. We offer a the cookie with either milk or dark chocolate. What a treat!

Cruelty Free Light Lunch

For lunch we offer simple wraps and sandwiches with hand crafted Sopa Organica soups.

All are certified organic and, so cruelty free! No factory farmed product allowed. We use Wild Planet tuna in our tuna salad, the only canned tuna in Canada getting beter than a passing sustainability grade from Greenpeace. Our egg salad is homemade from fresh certified organic cage free eggs so it is always fresh and tasty. Our sandwich slices are locally raised cruelty free from Rowe Farms. Even our cheddar cheese is certified organic from Quebec, and so produced from well treated animals.

We offer spinach empanadas from the Empanada Company in Long Branch and biscotti from More than Pies. We love to keep it in the "hood".

 

Share the Café you Love

giftcard

The link for cardholders to check balance and transaction history is here.

Many of you know that Birds and Beans café has offered gift cards for 12 years, but this year they are even better!  Our new gift cards have grown up from being administered manually, to an electronic debit card with great new features.

The gift card has the look and feel of gift cards from major retailers. This ensures your recipient will feel confident using the card, and you will be proud to give it.

Once activated, the card can be used at the cafe like a prepaid credit card.

The cards are reloadable, and a 10% discount applies to reloads. So your gift will extend throughout the year!

The card is secure, and transparent. The cardholder can view their current balance and historical transactions online. The cardholder simply enters their card number and their current balance is presented and a link is presented to access to the historical transactions.  The link for cardholders is here.

So isn't it a good time to introduce your friends and family to your favourite café?

Why is Boxed Water Better?

At Birds and Beans we are forever expanding and deepening our commitment to sustainability. As we learn about issues and find solutions, we weave them into the fabric of what we do. Some years ago, we were struck by a beautiful impactful art project by Chris Jordan that beautifully exposed some consequences of thoughtless plastic waste. We posted this and never ordered water in plastic bottles again.

albatross-ocean-gyre-birds-pictures-04
The remains of a baby albatross and the contents of its stomach.

Birds and Beans is proud to be free from plastic bottles since May 2012.  The life cycle of a plastic bottle has harmful effects to the environment throughout every step of the chain: from formation to disposal. For more information on the life cycle of a plastic water bottle, check out this Ted-Ed video.

We are an official Quench Water Re-fill Location. Bring your reusable water bottle and we are happy to fill it up with filtered tap water. We offer a pitcher of iced water with glasses for customers to enjoy in the cafe. We also offer a bowl of water for the four-legged bunch.

Despite all of these options, people still want to buy water to go. We want to make you happy, so we investigated options to provide a take-out water option without contributing to the Garbage Patch, harming animals who mistake micro plastics for food or degrading the quality of the soil that supports us.

Boxed Water
Boxed Water is Better

The Boxed Water folks in Michigan came up with the great idea of offering water in boxes. Boxes are made from trees, which is a renewable resource. Conservation is important to them, so the trees being used come from well-managed forests. The cartons are 100% recyclable. Less resources are used when shipping the boxed packaging to the locations where water is filled compared to plastic bottles because boxes can be shipped flat. The water inside is purified with UV, carbon and reverse osmosis filtration. As a bonus, know that 1% of Boxed Water revenue is being donated to reforestation and world water relief.

Please enjoy our free filtered water. If you need to, enjoy Boxed Water knowing that it is a more sustainable option than anything packaged in a plastic bottle.

Seeking a Compost Partner

About us:

We are the cafe part of Canada’s leading roaster of Certified Bird Friendly coffee. Our location is unique – unlike any other we’ve seen. Out back we have a lovely patio with a  view of Lake Ontario and a Native wildflower garden. The purpose of the garden is to provide habitat for birds and pollinators and to provide a beautiful backdrop for our patio.

Behind our wildflower garden is a huge composter – where we compost our coffee roaster chaffe, grinds and kitchen scraps. Since we don’t fertilize or water the wildflowers, we really don’t have a great need for the end product but we’re pretty sure someone out there really needs some great organic compost.

Our composter
Our onsite composter at Birds and Beans Café-by-the-Lake

About you:

You are reasonably local to us and are in need of some beautiful rich organic compost. You are willing to do some of the work required such as turning the piles and able to give direction to us on the adjusting the mix of inputs if required.

We’d prefer that you are a Community organization or perhaps involved in community garden but we will consider any one willing to help, You will have to agree to bag and remove the compost at your expense.

So, if this sounds like a match made in heaven to you, drop us a line and we’ll get dirty together….

To contact us, leave a comment here or call 647-439-3294.

Our Wildflower Garden
Our Wildflower Garden

Water is Free at Birds and Beans Café

We are no longer selling bottled water at the cafe. [update: we now sell boxed water if you want it to go]  I saw a Pop! Tech talk with Chris Jordan about a month ago.  He wanted to engage us in the impact of Pacific Garbage Patch.  Well it worked on me.

He photographed dead albatross chicks who had died from eating the plastic they were fed by their parents who thought it was food.

Here is what Chris Jordan says on his website about this project:

"On Midway Atoll, a remote cluster of islands more than 2000 miles from the nearest continent, the detritus of our mass consumption surfaces in an astonishing place: inside the stomachs of thousands of dead baby albatrosses. The nesting chicks are fed lethal quantities of plastic by their parents, who mistake the floating trash for food as they forage over the vast polluted Pacific Ocean.

Why Birds and Beans Café is palm oil free

The mainstream media has picked up the crisis of a small population of orangutans this week.  Their habitat in Indonesia has been relentlessly brought to ruin by palm oil producers over several decades.  According to RainforestPortal.org  “The globally exceptional Tripa peat swamp rainforests of Aceh, Indonesia have been set illegally ablaze by the oil palm industry, threatening to massacre one of the largest and most dense natural populations of orangutans.”

http://www.rainforestportal.org/shared/alerts/sendsm.aspx?id=orangutan_oilpalm

It is only the crisis of the appalling suffering and imminent demise of this population of our close relatives that has brought attention to this perpetual issue forward this week.  Pictures of near dead orangutans with faces pleading like our own gutted me.

But I’m not writing this to have us indulge in sorrow, though that may also be appropriate.  I’m writing this because the cause of this suffering is the production of cheap palm oil… “cheap”, there is an interesting word to use for the destruction of untold natural capital (I feel another post coming on!)

The destruction is happening because we buy and consume palm oil, either directly or indirectly, every day.  If we didn’t, the destruction would stop tomorrow.  It is not easy to eliminate palm oil from one’s diet because it is used in most processed food because it is “cheap”.  While reference to palm oil is disappearing from food labels as the public becomes aware of the environmental and, yes, health problems assoiciated with palm oil, the product is still there disguised as “vegetable oil”.

So in honour of earth hour, Birds and Beans cafe would like to emphasize that we offer absolutely no products that contain palm oil and as owners, David and I have committed to never purchasing products with palm oil in our personal lives (no more processed food).  This hints at another future post (in fact, let’s make it a category)  in which we’ll discuss our contention that the making of conscious food choices is the most important thing we can do for the planet — and we start now.

If earth hour teaches us anything, it must be that our cumulative actions can have impact.  Join us in reducing demand for palm oil and save the last remaining habitat for the orangutans.