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Your steak (might) come from a rainforest in flames

Clearing forest for cattle breeding has set the Amazon on fire. Your supermarket might sell Brazilian beef, which may come from illegally cleared rainforest.

The beef in your burgers and spaghetti bolognese is already one of the big climate culprits. And when the meat comes from Brazil, it does not get any better. On the contrary.

In addition to the long transport, the mighty Brazilian cattle industry is a major cause of the many thousands of fires that ravaged the Amazon especially in July and August last year. Although it is illegal, cattle farmers clear rainforest so that their cattle can graze. A rainforest which, due to its ability to bind carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, is also referred to as the world’s lungs.

Cattle ranches account for up to 80 percent of deforested land in the Amazon

Agribusiness, always a force in Brazil, gained even more economic and political power: It now represents nearly a quarter of the country’s G.D.P., and the Amazon region supports soybean farms, gold and iron ore mines and ranches holding more than 50 million cattle.

Minerva is Brazil’s second largest beef exporter. And their product is supplied, both directly and indirectly, by cattle farmers based in the Amazon rainforest. They argue, that they can certify 100% of its direct suppliers as zero-deforestation. But – like the other large Brazilian beef companies – unable to monitor indirect suppliers. Here is where we find the problem!

Minerva provide guarantees that they will not buy cattle that have grazed on illegally cleared rainforest. They do this by cross-checking their supplier lists with environmental authorities’ issuance of fines for illegally cleared rainforest, and through satellite monitoring.

But although both companies are doing their utmost to avoid deforestation, they also acknowledge that they can only control the cattle farm, who has direct suppliers to their slaughterhouses.

The problem, however, is that the cattle have often changed owner several times during the breeding period before eventually being sold for slaughter. The cattle may have grazed on illegally cleared rainforest at farms other than the one selling the cattle for slaughter. This is so-called “cattle laundering”, which means that cattle grazing on illegally cleared rainforest change ownership before being sold to the big meat companies such as Minerva.

So, look twice when you buy meat next time. Look on the back-side of the product to see it´s origin. And if from Brazil, give it a second thought.

Kristoffer from My Food Trust

Credit: Photo by fran hogan on Unsplash

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