Shade-grown coffee has long been touted as an eco-friendly alternative to the more ubiquitous, commercially farmed stuff. In essence, the designation attempts to indicate that coffee plantations weren’t built by clear-cutting forests and ravaging local ecosystems.
But coffee farming is a lot more complex than this rule-of-thumb may suggest. New research finds that our country’s only federally-funded coffee certification program may need to reevaluate what truly sustainable farming looks like. In particular, scientists are discovering, we need to listen to the birds.