Collagen Craze Linked to Deforestation in Brazil, Investigation Reveals
From supplements to skin care, collagen has been buzzing in the wellness world. But this popular ingredient is linked to the deforestation of tropical forests in Brazil, according to a recent investigation.
The investigation, conducted by The Guardian, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Center for Climate Crime Analysis (CCCA), ITV and O Joio e O Trigo in Brazil, has found that many of the trending protein powders, vitamins, face serums and other products that contain collagen are sourced from cattle farms that are linked to deforestation.
While collagen can be sourced from cattle, fish or pigs, “bovine” collagen is amongst the most popular. This ingredient is often touted as a protein that improves the health of hair, nails, skin and joints, as The Guardian reported, ultimately slowing the appearance of aging.
Human bodies naturally make collagen, although the production slows as we age or experience environmental stressors, like poor sleep, lack of exercise, or sun exposure, Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health explained.
As such, more and more products are including the ingredient to attract sales, although experts have doubted how effective topical products, like skin care creams and serums, could be, since collagen is found in deeper layers of the skin.
As of 2022, the global collagen market was valued at over $4 billion. It is expected to have a compound annual growth rate of over 8% from 2023 to 2032, according to Global Market Insights.
While there are studies on collagen, studies on humans are less available. Not only that, but Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health noted that many studies on collagen may include conflicts of interest, particularly funding from related industries or authors that work within industries that could benefit from positive research results on collagen.
Overall, there are no studies that show a negative impact from taking collagen. But now, there is an investigation showing the issues with collagen’s increasing demand. While other products linked to deforestation, like palm oil and beef, are often required to trace their supply chains, the collagen industry is not required to investigate its impacts.
In addition to connecting the industry to deforestation, the investigation found that the collagen had been linked to violence against Indigenous communities in Brazil amidst the deforestation to establish cattle farms.
“No cattle ranching expansion in the Amazon can take place without violence,” Bruno Malheiro, a geographer and professor at the Federal University of Southern and Southeastern Pará, told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Indigenous communities have faced threats, land invasions and arson, with an entire village, including schools, burned down last September.
“[The farmers] destroy what is theirs, and invade what is ours. I can’t understand why they destroy everything,” Kátia Silene Akrãtikatêjê, the first woman leader of the Gavião people, told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Popular collagen company Vital Proteins, owned by Nestlé, told the Bureau of Investigative Journalism it would “end sourcing from the Amazon region effective immediately” following the results of the investigation. Nestlé told The Guardian that it has contacted its collagen supplier to investigate, as the company has a target to have deforestation-free products by 2025.
Other companies, including Costco and Boots, made similar statements to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism about contacting suppliers regarding the investigation’s findings, while Walmart and Amazon declined to comment.