Social Responsibility and Organic Coffee

Social responsibility and organic coffee go hand in hand. Drinking healthy organic coffee is not only good for you; it is good for small coffee growers across the globe and it is good for the planet. There is a long supply chain separating most of us from the source of our morning cup of coffee. The largest coffee producers in the world are Brazil, Vietnam, Colombia, and Indonesia. Almost all coffee is grown in mountainous terrain or at least the highlands of the nations involved. There are many small, family run coffee growers in regions where today’s “modern” coffee growing techniques could cause substantial damage to the environment through soil erosion and pollution of streams and the water table. The sustainable growing techniques necessary for USDA organic coffee certification effectively eliminate the clearing of forests, pollution of the water table, and depletion of soil nutrients.

Social responsibility and organic coffee growing go hand in hand because consumers are willing to pay more for a superior product. There are a large number of health benefits to drinking coffee. For example drinking coffee reduces the risk of depression. More organic coffee can lead to less diabetes according to medical research. The antioxidants in coffee help reduce the risk of colon cancer and prostate cancer as well. The primary health reason to buy organic coffee instead of regular coffee is that organic coffee does not contain many of the impurities found in regular coffee. The sustainable growing techniques used for organic coffee avoid the use of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides, and synthetic fertilizers. A study by an Australian laboratory noted over 150 impurities in regular coffee. But, social responsibility and organic coffee are a different matter. It is a simple choice what kind of coffee to drink. The global marketing apparatus of large food companies makes sure that we are bombarded each day with suggestions about how great their coffee is or simply images that pair their coffee brand with happiness. And, regular coffee is cheaper. Thus it is a conscious act to pick a USDA certified organic coffee brand. That is where social responsibility and organic coffee come together.

Organic coffee certification is pretty strict. Growers need to practice sustainable growing techniques and demonstrate that they are doing so. Land used for growing organic coffee needs to have used only for organic farming procedures for typically three years. In addition, to maintain certification, growers cannot mix organic and regular coffee beans. They cannot contaminate equipment used for processing and roasting organic coffee with regular coffee. Storage must be separate and so must shipping containers. All of this is a lot of work and small growers in the four corners of the earth cannot afford to do this without being paid better than they would be for producing coffee by typical methods. By paying more for a superior product that protects the planet and protects the fabric of society in coffee growing regions consumers tie social responsibility and organic coffee together over the breakfast table or at the coffee shop on the corner.

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