Birds and Beans Gives more than a Hill of Beans

Pine Warbler taken on the April 2016 Bird Walk Sponsored by Birds and Beans.

As a family owed small business, our donation history punches well above our weight class.  In addition to supporting the suppliers who provide us with products and services that embody our values, we also generously support initiatives that

    1. are aimed at preserving and restoring habitat for birds and other wildlife;
    2. add value to our community and are conducted within the immediate vicinity of the café.

We donate to Ontario Nature and Bird Studies Canada as a portion of sales of their special edition coffees.  While our coffee sourcing supports biodiversity in coffee growing regions, they preserve support wildlife habitat here at home.

In our local community, we donate generously to our long term partners: Mimico-by-the-Lake BIA, Citizens Concerned about the Future of the Etobicoke Waterfront (CCFEW), and Lakeshore Arts  Their community building efforts are much appreciated and we enjoy long term friendship.

If you have a donation request, please tell us how we can become long term friends and let us know how your initiative preserves habitat, or how it builds community here in Mimico.

Birds and Beans are proud founding sponsors of Lakeshorts International Short Film Festival

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.

 

 

 

What is up with the Fair Trade logo?

You will notice a new Fair Trade logo on our website and packaging this month.  There have been some changes in the fair trade system this year, and, we are now licensed with a different certifier: Fair Trade USA.  Their fair trade logo looks like this.

Fair Trade Logo

So what is going on?  And what does it mean?

Well in short, the fair trade system now has multiple third party certifiers, each with slightly different criteria.  This is similar to the organic system in which there are well defined criteria on what is required for a product to be organic and there are several certifiers (Ecocert, Procert, and many more) who audit processes and records to ensure compliance with that standard.

It differs from the organic system in that the criteria for fair trade used by Fair Trade USA are now slightly different than those used by Fair Trade Canada.  The differences between them are subtle and are motivated by a differing views on how best to meet the goals of Fair Trade.  The goals remain common.

As licensees, we are disappointed by the confusion this disruption that has been caused by this shift.  While there seems to be rather vicious debate between advocates of these 2 systems (and the Rainforest Alliance actually), we remain focused on uncertified product as the problem:  where workers have no rights, poor pay and no security and where small producers have poor access to credit and to markets.  We believe effort should be spent on increasing the market for socially certified coffee rather than debating the merits of the various social responsibility certifications all of which have made significant improvements in the lives of real people.

From our perspective, the most important aspect of any certification including one for social responsibility, is that

  • it has published criteria that are developed openly and can be seen to be achieving their stated goals
  • the criteria are verified at every step by an independent third party
  • that chain of custody is unbroken so every party from producer to consumer willingly commits to third party verification

This brings us to why Birds and Beans, a Canadian family owned company, has landed with Fair Trade USA.  As the Canadian leader in certified Bird Friendly® coffee we are not able to purchase our raw coffee from the list of FTO coffees offered by local importers (as almost all other Canadian roasters do).  We have had to build our own global supply chain.

Our supply chain is complex and specialized and we have partnered with several like minded buyers in the USA to meet our goals.  Our buying partners have always been licensees of Fair Trade USA.  In order for us to preserve the new chain of custody requirements, we have joined them and now report through Fair Trade USA.

Chico Depulping
Chico depulping the coffee cherries on Gaia Estate

We are offering the same coffees grown, purchased and certified under the same conditions as we always have.  The only thing that has changed is the logo.  In the future, we hope to be able to add coffees sourced from our estate farmers (who were who had been ineligible for fair trade certification as independent family farms) as Fair Trade Certified.

 

People and Coffee

Fair Trade Logo

Coffee is a huge global industy. There is a lot of money in the coffee industry, but very little goes to the growers. The price of coffee is set by global commodity markets. The forces at work in these markets are skewed by the interests of a few huge multinational food companies. These forces are utterly out of the control of growers. As a result, coffee prices fluctuate from prices that can sustain the lives of growers near the poverty line in good years to below the price of production in others. The lives of these growers are uncertain and marginal.

 Fair trade is intended to by-pass the global coffee distribution chain and define another kind of trade. Trade that provides stability to the growers by offering credit, establishing long term trading relationships, and establishing minimum prices that enable a decent life to growers.

Marvin's kids try birding

Long term relationships give coffee farmers and their families confidence in their future. With this confidence children can go to school believing that they will have the opportunity to complete their studies. Access to credit enables growers to band together in co-operatives and invest in alternate processing and storage facilities and establish their own export companies that deal directly with importers into North America, Europe and Australia.

The benefits of this method of distribution are just as profound to the end consumer: because the beans from the single origin are not mingled with others from the country, the quality and uniqueness of the single origin are maintained. This means that the growers become rewarded for the quality character of their particular crop and that gives them incentive to continually improve. In this process, growers shift from labourers to connoisseurs and the end consumer here in North America is the ultimate beneficiary. Win-Win 

All of the coffee purchased by Birds and Beans is fairly traded. Almost all our coffees are certified by FairTrade USA and the rest by the Rainforest Alliance.

On certifications, Birds and Beans is Soaring above the Crowd™.

Indigo Bunting
Indigo Bunting
It takes more than a pretty picture of a bird to be
Certified Bird Friendly!

At Birds and Beans we strongly believe in third party certification.  Certifications are a way for us to participate in a voluntary chain of trust while harnessing third party verification.

We trust our growers and our importers based on our shared values and our joint support of certification programs. We earn your trust through our certification and our willingness to be verified. It is the chain of verified trust that ensures that people and the environment are protected.

Be part of the chain: Look for the certification seals.

On certifications, Birds and Beans is Soaring above the Crowd™.

All of our coffees are Certified Bird Friendly® with the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center to offer our coffees. See our up to date listing on the SMBC website here.

All of our coffees are certified organic by Ecocert Canada, an accredited certification body in Ontario. See our current certificate.

In addition to being certified Organic and Bird Friendly, all our coffees are purchased under fair and respectful social conditions and are certified by either Fair Trade USA or the Rainforest Alliance.  All of our coffees are Direct Trade via our import partners.