Corned beef being sourced from company linked to Amazon destruction

Friends of the Earth has traced supermarket corned beef to a meat company accused of violating rainforest-protection laws.
  Published:  04 Jun 2019    |      2 minute read

In the age of international trade and complex supply chains, it’s not always easy to trace the origins of your food. But Friends of the Earth did and the results were not pretty.

We found that Co-Op, Morrisons, Waitrose, Iceland and Lidl all sell corned beef from JBS – a Brazilian company that has been repeatedly linked to the destruction of the Amazon rainforest.

Help our sister organisation Friends of the Earth Brazil tackle destruction in the Amazon.

Our investigators cross-referenced the product codes on the tins with regulatory documents and supply-chain websites, tracing the corned beef back to JBS slaughterhouses in Brazil. 

The world's largest meatpacker has a history of buying cattle from farms that were illegally deforested. In 2017, JBS was fined nearly US$8 million for doing just that.

A can of co-op corned beef
Co-op corned beef sourced from a company linked to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest
Credit: Friends of the Earth

Laundering cows from illegal farms

As well as buying from illegally deforested farms, JBS has also been unable to tackle the problem of ‘cattle laundering’.

This is a tactic by which farms with illegal deforestation move cows to legal farms that then sell them on to JBS.

A can of Lidl's Newgate corned beef
Lidl's Newgate corned beef sourced from a company linked to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest
Credit: Friends of the Earth

The fact that British supermarkets are selling imported beef from companies complicit in these forest crimes is deeply worrying.

Danny Gross, Friends of the Earth campaigner

Deforestation and global heating

The beef industry is destroying the Amazon rainforest, flattening millions of acres to graze cattle – much of it illegally. In August 2019 the Brazilian space research centre INPE recorded a record number of fires in areas of deforestation. The process of felling and burning land is a known method used by soy and cattle farmers to clear land for increased production.

Deforestation displaces indigenous communities that have lived in the Amazon for generations.

Rainforests are also habitats to countless wild species, many of which we haven’t even discovered yet. Some plant species could hold the key to curing life-threatening conditions.

And these forests are crucial in avoiding the breakdown of our climate. They absorb and store carbon dioxide (CO2), the main planet-heating gas that we urgently need to reduce.

Cutting down the rainforests releases CO2 into the air, ramping up the climate crisis – and erasing wildlife from the planet.

The cattle industry is responsible for 80% of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. It could get worse too. Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has promised to weaken environmental regulations.

A can of Morrisons corned beef
Morrisons corned beef sourced from a company linked to deforestation in the Amazon rainforest
Credit: Friends of the Earth

We’re already seeing the impacts of climate chaos around the world, with the planet’s poorest communities suffering the most. This is the cruellest injustice.

Danny Gross, Friends of the Earth campaigner

Vote with your wallet

JBS has denied acquiring animals from farms involved with deforestation. But this contradicts an Amazon Watch report which alleges that JBS has bought cattle from 2 farms that have been fined repeatedly for illegal deforestation.

Iceland, which sells corned beef by Princes, says: "Princes is confident that it does not source any product from sites that have been called into question by the investigation."

Meanwhile, the British Retail Consortium (representing supermarkets including Co-Op, Morrisons and Lidl) released a statement condemning illegal deforestation and urging the Brazilian government to crack down on it.

But is that enough? UK supermarkets must be able to prove they are not involved in destroying nature around the world. Here are 3 things you can do:

1. Avoid products that are linked to rainforest destruction.

2. Become a member of Friends of the Earth to help us double tree cover in the UK.

3. Sign our petition to increase tree cover (thank you).