The Green Scene “October 2013”

Shelley Swenson

Wakulla County, UF/IFAS FCS Agent III coffee-beans

What is Certified Coffee?

Recently I received information from two UF/IFAS Wildlife Ecology and Conservation Specialists who helped me clarify some of the information that is currently available about the popular product in our lives – COFFEE!!!  I hope that you find the following information as interesting as I.

Coffee isn’t just something that perks you up in the morning – it is also one of the most important commodities in the world.  It is a cash crop critical to various economies.  With so much coffee production and consumption, an increasing number of people are becoming interested in learning the social, environmental and economic aspect of producing coffee.  This has led to different certification processes that address consumers’ concerns.

 

What Does Certified Coffee Mean?

Certified coffees take one or more aspects of sustainability into account.  This means the coffee was grown in a healthy environment, is economically viable for farmers, promotes fairness among farmers and workers, or all three aspects.  Additionally, certified coffee meets all guidelines set by coffee growers and is verified by a certification organization.

Certification Programs

            Generally, all verification programs share the following features:

  • They provide economic incentives to farmers with the distributors paying premiums for certified coffee, giving farmers more income.
  • Because certification guidelines are satisfied during production, the way a coffee is produced is being certified.
  • Before a coffee is voluntarily certified it must be verified by an inspector from an independent certification agency.

What are the International Coffee Certification Programs?

  • Organic:  Organic certification prohibits the use of synthetic chemicals used in agriculture.  Organic standards are verified during production, as well as processing and handling.
  • Fairtrade:  Fairtrade is an approach that aims to improve the market access and strengthen the organization of small producers.  This approach also seeks to improve the livelihood of these producers by paying them fair prices and providing stability in trade relationships.  Fairtrade verification is only given to farmers’ associations and cooperatives rather than individual farmers.
  • Rainforest Alliance:  This coffee is grown on farms located where forests, soils, rivers and wildlife are considered.
  • Bird-Friendly:  This certification promotes shade-grown organic coffee, which plays a role in conserving trees for the environment and birds that migrate.
  • UTZ:  means “good” in a Mayan language.  UTZ requires farmers to grow coffee with care to benefit their local communities and environment.  This involves training employees on health and safety procedures, as well as using pesticides correctly.  The certification program’s goal is to reduce the use of water, energy and pesticides.
  • Starbucks C.A.F.E. Practices:  This program ensures that Starbuck’s coffee is sustainably grown by evaluating the economic, social and environmental aspects of its production.
  • 4C:  This stands for The Common Code for the Coffee Community which addresses social, economic and environment standard for everyone involved in coffee production.  It is primarily found in Europe, but is expanding to the United States’ markets.

Many times certified coffee is more expensive.  As in informed consumer, you must keep your price limit and priorities in mind before you choose a certified coffee.  Anyone can visit the website of any coffee company to learn what their production standards are.  Then as an informed consumer, you can decide which coffee falls in line with your individual concerns and price point.

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