According to new research into the supply chain for Brazilian soya beans, the UK meat industry and its supermarkets continue to deforest the Amazon.
Clearing land for cattle or soya beans is an important driver of forestation in Amazon.
Nearly 12,000 kilometres of Amazon rainforest were destroyed in 2022. This is equivalent to losing four football fields every second.
The complex supply chains that make up the global food industry obscure the connection between destruction and consumers thousands miles apart.
Environmental groups Mighty Earth and Reporter Brazil combined satellite data with observations on ground to show evidence of a direct connection between illegal deforestation of the Amazon and soya bean supplies from Brazil to the UK by US commodities company Cargill.
“If Cargill (the largest privately owned US company) wants to contribute to the solution to climate and natural disasters, it must source from suppliers who farm on land that has been degraded. There are 1.6 billion acres of such land in Latin America alone. Glenn Hurowitz CEO of Mighty Earth, said that they will not source from those who continue to torch forests.
The report names the Santa Ana farm in Brazil’s Mato Grosso, on which 400 hectares were of forest burned last year. Researchers estimate that this area would have held 220,000 trees.
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Cargill receives soya from the farm. The beans are exported via Brazil’s Santarem port, to various locations worldwide, including the UK.
After an investigation by Brazilian authorities into illegal deforestation of the farm, Cargill removed the item from its approved supplier list. However, it was reinstated by Cargill in 2022.
Cargill imports around 70% of the UK’s soya, and 75% of Cargill’s soya arrives in the country via Santarem port in Brazil.
Soya is an important ingredient in animal feed, especially for intensively farmed chickens or pigs. It is almost impossible to trace illegal deforestation once soya has been shipped to feed mills.
Avara foods, the largest UK chicken producer and part-owner of Cargill, is the one that is most exposed to Brazilian soya. They also supply the feed.
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Brazilian Amazon deforestation reaches its highest point since 2006.
Avara is responsible for producing 4.5 million turkeys and chickens per week in the UK.
Avara supplies leading supermarkets and suppliers, including Tesco, Asda and Lil, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, McDonald’s and KFC.
The latest report names Tesco the UK’s biggest supermarket chain. Its own-brand chicken is supplied to it by Avara.
Gemma Hoskins (UK director at Mighty Earth) stated that “Our investigation has shown Tesco is a basket full of problems for Amazon.”
“While the UK’s largest retailer makes huge profits, it continues doing business with forest destroyers like Cargill. This adds fuel to the fire of Amazon Deforestation, harms the health of local communities, decimates wildlife, and threatens precious habitats.
Tesco and other UK food retailers signed the UK Soy Manifesto, which required them to ensure that their supply chains were “deforestation and conversion-free” by 2020. They also had to cease sourcing from suppliers related to land conversion or deforestation by 2025.
Sky News was informed by Tesco that they take any accusation of conversion or deforestation occurring in our supply chains very seriously. They immediately asked Cargill to clarify the matter and remove the farm from their supply chain, until an investigation can be done.
Avara, a chicken producer, stated that it has been sourcing soya that is “deforestation-free and free from conversions” since 2019.
It stated in a statement that “Clearly, there are still non-certified soya farms growing soya high risk in high demand areas”
It said: “We acknowledge that, despite all our progress to date, we still have a lot of work to do to reach our 2025 goals.” While we will work together with other sector professionals and others, it is clear that this won’t be enough if other people don’t make the same commitments.
Cargill has been criticised for purchasing soya from deforested areas in South America.