Supermarkets to stop selling Brazil beef over Amazon deforestation

Three cows eating with smoke behind them
Cows graze on a field that was burnt out in the Amazon rainforest, Brazil, photo: Reuters/Ricardo Moraes

Major supermarket chains in the Netherlands, France, Belgium and the United Kingdom announced on Wednesday they plan to stop selling some or all beef products from Brazil because of links to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

The boycotts are the result of an investigation by Brazilian publication Repórter Brasil and environmental protection organization Mighty Earth that linked beef jerky, corned beef and fresh prime cuts in supermarkets to deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and the Pantanal tropical wetlands.

The meat came from Brazilian company JBS, the world’s largest beef company that is being accused of ‘cattle laundering’: cows raised on illegally deforested land are sold to a legitimate farm before they go to slaughter, so their origin is hidden.

Corned beef from UK supermarket Sainbury’s, beef jerky sold at Carrefour Belgium, ribeye beef steaks at the Lidl Netherlands and beef products at the Dutch supermarket chain Ahold were all linked to Amazon deforestation.

Lidl Netherlands said it would stop selling all beef originating in South America starting in 2022. Ahold’s Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, said it would stop sourcing beef from Brazil entirely. The other companies said they would stop selling certain products.

Deforestation in Brazil’s Amazon hit a 15-year high in 2021, with an area larger than the U.S. state of Connecticut being cleared. Most of the land was used for keeping cows for the meat industry.

JBS told news agency Reuters it has zero tolerance for illegal deforestation, but that it’s hard to monitor whether it happens with indirect suppliers.

During the U.N. climate change conference COP26 in Glasgow in November, more than 100 world leaders pledged to stop and reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030.

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