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In the world of labels it is so easy to get confused about what they are really saying. Sometimes when shopping I have trouble remembering which label means what, which is why I am grateful to have come across an article recently that did a nice job of summarizing and comparing coffee labels. I thought I would take the time to recap the article and provide you a jpeg that you can save to your phone.  So, when your out shopping and wondering what a label means you can open up the image and make the best buying decision for yourself.


We will look at five labels and the requirements for use on coffee packaging.


  1. Rainforest Alliance Certified - This seal means that some or all of the coffee in the bag is sourced from farms that have met standards aimed at promoting sustainability and protecting farmers, forests, wildlife, and local communities. Rainforest Alliance standards for minimizing pesticide use and incorporating native trees are not as stringent as those behind the Bird Friendly Habitat Designation.
  2. Bird Friendly Habitat - This seal certifies that the farm where the coffee was grown qualifies as a “bird friendly habitat” as defined by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. It means that coffee carrying this seal not only is organic but also was grown in an environment that protected biodiversity and maintained native trees so that the coffee farm could remain an important habitat for birds and other wildlife.
  3. Fair Trade Certified - Unlike Fairtrade, this label does not indicate that the coffee was purchased directly from small-scale farmers. The beans can be grown on large coffee plantations, but these farms have to meet certain standards, including protecting farmworkers from unsafe working conditions. Farms must also pay workers at least the local minimum wage and implement a plan to increase that to a living wage over time.
  4. Fairtrade - This seal indicates that the beans were sourced directly from small-scale farmers who paid a fair price. The certification organization, Fairtrade International, sets a minimum price that is enough to cover the cost of sustainable production. The minimum price must be paid directly to coffee producers. A premium is added to the minimum price that is distributed to the coffee producers and must be invested in their communities or businesses.
  5. USDA Organic - The term“organic” is strictly regulated by the Department of Agriculture. In the case of coffee farms, this seal means synthetic fertilizers and synthetic pesticides that can be harmful to farmers and to wildlife are banned. The label also ensures that soil quality is protected.

Fair Trade Coffee Labels

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