UK retailer backlash against Brazilian meat giant JBS

UK retailers have severed their ties with meat giant JBS following a Greenpeace investigation that claimed that the Brazilian meat giant is failing to prevent cattle from illegally deforestated land in the Amazon rainforest from entering the supply chain.

Retailers Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Asda, as well as food company Princes have all cancelled business with JBS following the publication of the report.

Annette Cotter, Greenpeace International forest campaigner said: “The international market is not interested in buying Amazon destruction. These contract cancellations clearly show that if JBS does not clean up its supply chain, the company will continue to lose business.”

“Until JBS clearly demonstrates it is implementing the Cattle Agreement it signed in 2009, other consumers should also remove JBS from their supply chains.”

“The expansion of cattle ranching is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Amazon. As the biggest meat company in the world, JBS has a responsibility and the ability to lead the industry.”

The move came after the Greenpeace report claimed that JBS had seriously violated its own ethical code, as well as those of its suppliers. In 2009, the four largest meat companies in Brazil signed an agreement to provide minimum criteria for the industry, which would stop the purchase of cattle from ranches in indigenous or protected land, as well as land that had been recently deforested.

Greenpeace said that JBS had failed to do the bare minimum to ensure that deforestation did not enter its supply chain, purchasing cattle from five farms accused of illegal deforestation, as well as not monitoring indirect suppliers for deforestation, use of slave labour or illegal use of indigenous land.  

It called on the company to implement the full minimum criteria of the Cattle Agreement and immediately end all relationships with farms that have proven links to Amazon destruction. It also called on the Brazilian government to back this up with a legal framework.

The Greenpeace report said that the total value of Brazilian canned beef imports to the UK acounted for 30% of the total exports, at around 78,800t, or around USD$346m, and named Tesco as one of the companies involved in the “tainted chain of custody”.

However, a Tesco spokesperson said: “We are committed to tackling rainforest deforestation, including working with other consumer goods companies (through the Consumer Goods Forum) to help end deforestation by 2020. The vast majority of the beef we sell, including all fresh beef, is sourced from the UK and Ireland.

“Canned beef products sourced from Brazil account for less than 1% of total beef sales. We started to cut back our supplies from JBS a year ago and have now ceased sourcing any canned beef products from JBS.

“Ethics and sustainability remain an important part of our dialogue with suppliers.”

A Greenpeace report released in 2009 claimed that numerous major global brands – including UK supermakets – were fuelling the destruction of the Amazon rainforest by sourcing beef for pies, canned meats and ready meals from suppliers linked to illegal deforestation. This led to four of Brazil’s leading beef suppliers, JBS-Friboi, Marfrig, Bertin and Minerva, signing an agreement to support a ban on the purchase of cattle from illegally deforested areas of the Amazon.

JBS has since attacked the updated 'unfounded' report and threatened legal action against Greenpeace.

>JBS attacks 'unfounded' Greenpeace report

>Beef driving rainforest destruction, says Greenpeace

>Greenpeace praises pressure from Princes

>Brazilian beef not fuelling deforestation, says embassy

>Irish call for total EU ban on Brazilian beef