Tuesday, August 5, 2008

About Fair Trade

I'm a coffee drinker. Not the kind that will swill a cup from Denny's or some other crappy franchised sub-mediocre dining establishment that I wouldn't step foot in even if I had a $100.00 off your next meal coupon. Nor am I a big Starbucks fan, deciding that the pros definitely don't outweigh the cons when it comes to price and social conscionability. I don't even drink the coffee at work, of which I am solely responsible to provide and charge for (one of my more important job functions). What I do like are the great Equal Exchange beans I buy at Bloomingfoods, which I grind just prior to brewing in my fabulous Melita coffee maker. It's good coffee and I feel good about drinking it, being organically grown and fair trade certified.

So as I mentioned, I buy the coffee that we use here at work. When I took the job I was given a Sam's club card and shown the ropes on how to make the coffee service we provide sustainable. I have since expanded the service to include snacks and occasionally beverages. I turn a small profit so I guess whatever I'm doing is working. But being all about social consciousness, and good taste, I found it hard to continue buying the jumbo sized cans of Maxwell House that had set the standard for office coffee years before my arrival. Imagine my surprise, when I discovered that Sam's Club sells their own brand of ground coffee that is certified fair trade in the same jumbo sized cans that Maxwell House did. There even wasn't much of a difference in price between the two.

But I had to look at this objectively. I mean c'mon, this is Sam's Club. You know, the big warehouse store owned by the same demonic powers that have almost single handedly destroyed our American culture. What's the catch.

So I did some research. Apparently there isn't any. Unlike the hazy standards set by the FDA regulating organic produce and dairy products (one day I'll get into the whole bullshit surrounding Horizon dairy products) it seems as though there are no loopholes when it comes to fair trade. You either are or you aren't End of story.

Here's what I learned by going to the The DalyGreen.com http://www.thedailygreen.com/environmental-news/latest/7381:

Member's Mark Premium Ground is a medium roast, Arabica coffee grown and hand harvested by 3,678 small-scale, independent farmers. After harvest, farmers sell their green coffee to democratically-run cooperatives for a set, guaranteed minimum price. The coffee is roasted and packaged by Cafe Bom Dia, a Brazilian company with four generations of experience in the coffee industry.

Sam's Club will also partner with Cafe Bom Dia and TransFair USA to offer a summer 2008 week long study grant opportunity for junior high and high school teachers interested in teaching about Fair Trade. Teachers can enter the national essay contest and apply to win one of 10 expenses-paid trips to visit Fair Trade cooperatives, farms and communities in Brazil next summer. For details, click here.

The I found this detailing a bit more of the fair trade process. Apparently the FDA has nothing to do with it, which makes me fell better already.

From reasononline http://www.reason.com/news/show/33257.html:

TransFair USA certifies Fair Trade products and audits the chain of custody from producer to finished product, verifying that Fair Trade standards are met by everyone along the line. But it relies on the Fairtrade Labeling Organizations International, a global group based on Bonn, Germany, to certify coffee farms. TransFair is one of 20 members of FLO, an umbrella organization that has channeled ideas about social cooperation into pages upon pages of mind-numbing certification standards. The FLO defines a fair farm as a family farm that is a part of a large democratic cooperative. Farms cannot be "structurally dependent on hired labor," which means that hiring even one laborer year-round makes a farm ineligible for certification. Even more controversial is the cooperative requirement. Rather than deal with individual farms, the FLO exclusively certifies large cooperatives composed of hundreds of small land-owning farmers, each with a single vote on how to best spend the Fair Trade profits.

Sounds fair to me. I guess I can stop beating myself up over going to Sam's Club and buying their brand of coffee. Not great, but not terrible either.

Hee Haw

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