Brazilian beef industry keen to reduce Amazon rainforest destruction

Historically, the expansion of cattle pastures has led to huge destruction in the Amazon rainforest
Historically, the expansion of cattle pastures has led to huge destruction in the Amazon rainforest

Related tags Brazil Beef Livestock

The rise in "zero deforestation agreements" in Brazil has notably influenced the behaviour of ranchers and the slaughterhouses to which they sell, according to new research by the University of Wisconsin-Madison. However, further investment from the beef industry is needed.

The US study, led by Holly Gibbs, included involvement from other university scientists, the National Wildlife Federation, and Imazon – the Amazon Institute of People and the Environment, and is the first to evaluate the impact of these "market-driven"​ agreements.

Historically, the expansion of cattle pastures has led to huge destruction in areas of the rainforest in Brazil, which is home to the world’s largest herd of commercial beef cattle, said the study.

In 2009, the largest slaughterhouse owners in the state of Para – which has the largest cattle herd in the Amazon biome – publicly committed to only buy cattle from ranchers who stopped clearing rainforests, and who registered their properties with Brazil’s rural environmental registry.

JSB, Marfrig and Minerva – the three largest companies – also committed to set up monitoring systems to track the deforestation on their supplying properties.

The study demonstrated that the aforementioned agreements encouraged ranchers to "swiftly register their properties in an environmental registry, led slaughterhouses to actively block purchases from ranches with recent deforestation, and saw lower deforestation rates among supplying ranches".

Gibbs, a professor of geography and environmental studies in the Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment, said: "We show that concurrent public and private supply-chain pressures could be a game changer, and help to finally break the link between deforestation and beef production."

However, the research also highlighted the fact that challenges still remain in achieving zero-deforestation in the production of beef. Gibbs said further investment from the beef industry, and the Brazilian government, in improving the existing agreements would be very beneficial.

Paulo Barreto, senior researcher at Imazon and co-author of the paper, said three developments were needed for the agreements to reach their full potential: "First, they should involve all ranches in the cattle supply chain, including the ones specialised in calving and rearing. Second, the entire meat-packing industry should monitor its suppliers. Third, the government should increase the quality and transparency of public information used by private companies to enforce the agreements."

The full study paper​ was published in journal Conservation Letters on 12 May.

Related topics Meat

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