beefjerky, Serious Shit

Sticks and Stones (and Marketing Hyperbole and Such)

Did you know your coffee may have twigs, stones or even ground up ducklings? It’s true and it’s horrifying. This means that those dodgy, crafty coffee farmers are up to their old tricks again! Trying to cheat you, the hard-working consumer, out of your hard earned cash and get  you to drink extra filler swill at the same time – just like the kid wiping boogers on your burger at Hardees.

You may have seen some of the headlines over the weekend:

Besides the fact that this is probably one of the first times you’ll see Fox News and Grist.org running the same angle on a story – the stories are depressingly misleading. What sounds like a major problem is just a sales pitch for the American Chemical Society who figured out a tricky way to determine what’s in your coffee besides coffee (other than milk, hazelnut flavors, bucket of sugar, etc.).

But rather than just pitch it to the coffee industry that would be interested in using this new tool, they decided to go full guns blazing and sound the alarm! Greedy coffee farmers are dumping whatever they can get their hands on into your morning cup so they can rake in the big bucks. Dear God in heaven, help us if we can’t get one by those conniving small-scale farmers! They even came up with a crappy info graphic (which shows absolutely no scope of the alleged problem).

And while everyone is throwing their arms in the air and wringing their hands in despair over those farmers trying to take advantage of a volatile market situation, Modern Farmer posted a great article looking at the real facts.

I guess overall, this wouldn’t be so bad, except when I look at that headline from Daily Coffee News that boldly asserts ‘Producers to blame…’. Now I know – and I’ve seen – sticks and stones while sorting through green beans. And I know some things get in there that shouldn’t be, but to toss this kind of language around and pin the blame on people – the majority of whom struggle day to day to feed their families (and not struggle like Midwestern farmer ‘we only get meat for two meals’ struggle, but like serious life-death, ‘kids’re eating broth tonight’ struggle) – is ridiculous.

But it’s beyond ridiculous when you throw these hard-working folks under the bus to sell your shitty chromotherapy-kaleidoscope-whatever-mabang (I am sure it’s very useful, I just object to the PR-weenie hyperbole used to sell this story).

There are 125 million farmers, workers and family members who depend on coffee for their income (please note, old stat from years ago – anyone have a better one?). The majority of them were not attracted to coffee for the great prospects. Many of them would have no other option if not for coffee.

They are not cheating you. They are not to blame. Making a statement like that in press materials that provide no context whatsoever is irresponsible. If you were like me, you would write a letter to Michael Bernstein at
m_bernstein@acs.org and let him know that their research is crap (except when it comes to determining what kind of crap is in your coffee, then it’s probably pretty handy).

In lieu of the knock these guys are giving to coffee farmers and workers, you should make a donation to Coffee Kids, Pueblo a Pueblo or Food4Farmers three organizations that are helping struggling farmers, workers and their families right now.

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