Chickens Sold in UK Linked to Amazon Deforestation
That’s the conclusion of a new investigation from Reporter Brasil and Ecostorm published Thursday which found that chickens sold to the UK by U.S.-based company JBS had been fed with soya and corn grown on cleared land that had once been home to Brazil’s ecologically important Amazon rainforest and Cerrado savanna.
“This investigation shows that the purchasing procedures applied have blind spots and still cannot fully prevent mechanisms of grain laundering,” the investigation found, as The Independent reported.
JBS is the world’s largest meat company and it sells Brazilian-raised chicken, beef and pork to Europe, China and the Middle East, among other international markets. It has come under fire in the past for sourcing its cattle from deforested land, according to another Reporter Brasil investigation published in 2019.
The new report claims that it is feeding chickens with soya and corn linked to deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado, according to The Independent. In one instance, a soy farm in Brazil’s Mato Grosso state that supplied JBS illegally cleared 243.890 acres of land, The Guardian reported. Some of those soy-fed chickens, in turn, have ended up in the UK through JBS subsidiary Seara, which produces more than five million Brazilian chickens each day from 9,000 farms. Britain imported at least $500-worth of Seara chickens over the last three years, which were distributed via wholesale companies to grocery stores, schools, hospitals and nursing homes.
JBS maintained to Reporter Brasil that it requires all of its grain suppliers to sign the soy moratorium, which bans the sale of soy grown on land that was deforested after 2008.
“JBS requires that 100% of its grain procurement contracts meet social-environmental criteria in all Brazilian biomes,” the company further told The Guardian. “In the case of purchases from trading companies, the contracts require that their supplier farms are not located in areas of illegal deforestation; are not under federal or state interdictions; are not located in conservation units or on indigenous or quilombola lands; or do not use labour under conditions analogous to slavery.”
The company further said it required all suppliers in the Amazon biome to sign the moratorium and that three farms mentioned in the report had met their environmental standards when they sourced grains from them. When the farms were later cited for violations, the company blacklisted them.
However, JBS also continued to source cattle from deforested land after paying a 24.7-million-Brazilian-real fine for the practice, according to the 2019 Reporter Brasil investigation, which was also conducted by The Guardian and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
The news comes during an urgent time for the Brazilian Amazon, which saw record deforestation during the first six months of 2022. The country is in the midst of a presidential election which will determine if current pro-exploitation President Jair Bolsonaro will maintain power, or whether his left-wing opponent Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, himself a former Brazilian president with a better Amazon track record, will win. Bolsonaro’s policies have pushed the Amazon towards a tipping point after which it would transform into grassland. During the first six months of 2022, deforestation was up 80 percent compared to the first six months of 2018, the year before he was elected, according to Nature World News.
The Cerrado is less well known internationally, but is also an important carbon sink that has lost around 50 percent of its native vegetation because of agricultural expansion since the 1950s.