Soy Reports

Tesco's meat problem

Tesco's meat problem

Britain’s largest supermarket chain, Tesco sells a lot of meat – hundreds of millions of chickens a year alone. Three weeks ago, Tesco produced a new set of requirements for its meat suppliers to try and address the massive environmental consequences of those meat sales, starting with the soy-based animal feed used to fatten chicken, pigs and cows for its own-brand meat and dairy offer.

The long overdue update has been produced following campaign efforts from Mighty Earth and Greenpeace UK – with consumers calling on the company to drop the worst forest destroyers in its supply chain.

Meat has outsized environmental consequences. Raising meat produces more climate pollution, fouls more drinking water, and requires more land for livestock and feed globally than all other food crops combined - for a fraction of the nutritional value.

But the single most acute environmental consequence is the bulldozing and burning of millions of acres of rainforest and other ecosystems to make way for industrial animal feed plantations and cattle ranches.

There has been more land in the Amazon and Cerrado Biomes of Brazil bulldozed for soy plantations than the entire land mass of Israel or Slovenia in just 11 years.

Unless companies like Tesco take strict action, it could get worse very quickly: proposed legislation in front of the Brazilian legislature, which if passed, puts at least 19.6 million hectares of public land in the Amazon at risk from large agribusiness companies trying to grab land to make more industrial feed and meat.

Within this context, the new requirements for Tesco meat suppliers sourcing from South America to have a strict no-deforestation, no-conversion and no-human rights abuse policy – based on a ‘cut-off date’, a biome-wide agreement and improved transparency in sourcing represents an improvement over the status quo.

However, unless the details are strengthened, Tesco shoppers will still be eating chicken and pork connected to the destruction of the rainforest and tropical savannah in Brazil for some time.

Supplier impunity on deforestation 

Tesco’s policy, in essence, allows agribusinesses that supply animal feed to continue driving deforestation with impunity while supplying the company. In particular:

  • Tesco fails to spell out how or when it will suspend meat suppliers sourcing soy animal feed from companies that drive the destruction of the Amazon and the Cerrado in Brazil, nor how they will exclude traders from their supply chain complicit in deforestation. For example, even with a recent policy commitment to zero deforestation, US agribusiness behemoth Cargill will accept or condone deforestation in its supply chain until at least 2030 – giving industrial meat interests nine years to bulldoze as much land as possible.
  • The scheme allows suppliers to purchase ‘mass balance’ credits or certificates if they are unable to prove that their soy is either from deforestation-free areas or from a ‘gold standard’ certified source of supply. This discredited approach is a ‘get out of jail free’ card because it could inadvertently support deforestation by allowing Tesco suppliers like Cargill to buy soy from recently destroyed forests and savannahs, and then buy credits from land that was cleared some time ago. This type of approach has also been criticised for lacking transparency and undermining traceability.
  • Finally, while the policy pays lip service to the Accountability Framework Initiative (AFI), it fails to advance the principle of ‘group level accountability’ for deforestation into practice. The AFI is currently advancing guidance that bestows responsibility on traders for land conversion that happens on any farms owned by the farmers supplying them, rather than just the farms directly in their supply chain. At present, the Tesco policy allows traders such as Cargill to sell Tesco suppliers certified no-deforestation animal feed, while continuing to buy from farmers that are razing forests in other parts of its supply chain.

A tangible way forward

We have seen whole industries change when they enforce robust policies on suppliers engaged in deforestation, pollution, or human rights abuse.

Many consumer facing companies have adopted strict policies on palm oil, for instance, that simply required suppliers not to engage in deforestation, with no excuses, no credits, and no greenwashing. Those policies were a key driver of a massive environmental success: deforestation for palm oil is down more than 90%.

Until Tesco and other companies adopt similarly strong policies and cut ties with supplier companies that are driving the destruction of Brazil’s forests – such as JBS, Cargill and Bunge, its meat is still going to be driving environmental destruction on an enormous scale.

These policies are simple, clear and affordable: to comply, all producers must do is produce meat and beef on the 1.6 billion acres of previously deforested land instead of expanding on the agricultural frontier.

That should just be the easy first step, instead of something we must fight for. But if Tesco is going to provide truly sustainable protein, it needs to go further:

  1. Help shift consumers to sustainable, plant-based diets. As a leading retailer in the UK, Tesco has a role to play in influencing consumer behaviour towards these diets which begin to tackle the demand-drivers of deforestation.
  2. Support strong forest protections in producer countries, while promoting the use of existing agricultural or degraded land for soy production. Advocacy by Tesco and other supermarkets when forest laws are under threat can help in this regard, as can cutting commercial links with suppliers that support deregulation of forest protections.
  1. Work with others to ensure full transparency and traceability in meat from farm to product; ensure that all soy entering the market is from ‘clean’ suppliers and move forward the principle of ‘group-level responsibility’ for deforestation - meaning that companies cannot deforest in some parts of their operation while selling ‘sustainable soy’ simultaneously to other parts of the market.

While Tesco shows positive intent through its new policy, action in these three areas would prove that the company is serious in tackling the drivers of deforestation, rather than allowing its suppliers to cut down forests on one hand, while reaping the benefits of sustainability certification and credits on the other.


Mighty Earth’s new monitoring data reveals deforestation connected to soy trader and meatpackers in Brazil more than doubled over two-year period

Mighty Earth’s new monitoring data reveals deforestation connected to soy trader and meatpackers in Brazil more than doubled over two-year period

The largest soy traders and meatpackers in Brazil have failed on their promises to end deforestation in their supply chains and continue to do business with suppliers that are destroying rainforests and savanna. 

review of the past two years of monitoring data (March 2019-March 2021) demonstrates that deforestation detected in companies’ supply chains more than doubled in the second year of monitoring compared to the firstHowever, despite this escalating crisis, only one case of deforestation has ever been resolved by these companies out of the 235 recorded by our monitoring.  

Thupdated tracker includes new data from Mighty Earth’s three latest Rapid Response reportsreleased in partnership with Aidenvironment. The new data builds on the original version of the tracker and policy brief released in December 2020 to encompass a full two years of monitoring (March 2019-March 2021.) 

Key Findings: 

  • The tracker update reveals that major soy traders and meatpackers are linked to more than 314,000 hectares deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado over the past two years (March 2019 to March 2021) -- an area larger than twice the size of London. Yet, out of 235 cases of deforestation that Mighty Earth has sent to companies, only one has ever been resolved. 
  • The data reveals a pattern of escalating amounts of deforestation carried out by soy trader and meatpacker suppliers. On average, deforestation connected to supply chains of soy traders and meatpackers more than doubled over a two-year period of monitoring. This pattern mirrors increasing rates of deforestation in the Amazon and Cerrado biomes overall during this time periodi. 
  • JBS was the worst-scoring meatpacker and company overall. It has been linked to 100,000 hectares of clearance the past two years – an area larger than all of Berlin. 75 percent of this clearance occurred in protected areas, making it potentially illegal under Brazilian law.  
  • Bunge and Cargill are the worst performing soy traders, despite their recent sustainability reports touting their nearly deforestation-free supply chainsBunge is linked to almost 60,000 hectares of clearance – more than a third of which took place in protected areas. Meanwhile, Cargill is linked to more than 66,000 hectares of clearance -- the largest amount out of any other soy trader.  
  • While no company performs well in the tracker, some are performing better than others, such as Amaggi and Louis Dreyfus out of the soy traders. 

Many US supermarkets continue to buy from Bunge, Cargill, and/or JBS despite these numbers – including Costco, Walmart, and Kroger. Bunge, Cargill, and JBS are also major suppliers to European supermarkets, including Tesco, EDEKA, Carrefour and Albert Heijn (Ahold Delhaize.)

In addition to the worst-scorer JBS above, the other two meatpackers included in the tracker, Marfrig and Minerva, are also poor performers, having been connected to more than 50,000 hectares of clearance eachMost of this clearance is potentially illegal, having occurred in protected areas. Much of the deforestation included in the meatpackers’ scores is related to their indirect suppliers, which meatpackers currently cannot fully trace and therefore cannot monitor for deforestation. 

Although Mighty Earth sends all instances of deforestation detected in our monitoring system to meatpackers and soy traders on a monthly basisthey very rarely take action on the suppliers responsible for the destruction. Only one case of deforestation has ever been resolved by a company, out of 235 cases to date that Mighty Earth sent to companies in the past two years 

One example of this inaction is meatpackers continuing to source from Agropecuária Santa Bárbara Xinguara (AgroSB a company that has direct and indirect links to JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva. Mighty Earth and Aidenvironment have caught AgroSB deforesting or setting fires on six separate occasions during the past two yearsAgroSB has also been accused of exploiting workers and money laundering.ii The clearance carried out by AgroSB now totals more than 2,800 hectares, more than 2,200 of which occurred in protected areas. The clearance could have been stopped long ago, but inaction from meatpackers allows business to continue as usual.  

Similarly, Cargill and Bunge continue to source from SLC Agrícola despite repeated deforestation cases connecting the supplier to more than 11,000 hectares of clearance over our two years of monitoring. Furthermore, SLC Agrícola is associated with $200 million land grabbing corruption schemeiii. While SLC Agrícola committed to stop deforesting in 2020, it admitted it still had more clearing to do before implementing the commitment and has actively opposed a deforestation cut-off date in the Cerradoiv. It also recently bought 8 new properties through its acquisition of Terra Santa Agro, one of which overlaps with more than 18,000 hectares of Indigenous land in Mato Grossov 

AgroSB and SLC Agrícola are examples of how the agricultural groups and property owners implicated in deforestation cases are often also connected to land conflicts, labor rights violations, government bribery and environmental crimes, which are further detailed in our Rapid Response reports. 

Beyond the issue of deforestation, many cases added to the tracker involve the concerning use of fire. About half of the deforestation cases from Rapid Response reports added to the latest tracker update also involved fire incidences. Often, producers use fire to clear debris from bulldozed trees after they’ve deforested. Fires set by agricultural companies can often spread out of control, resulting in the destruction of land and air quality of Indigenous and local communitiesvi. The worst performers in the tracker tended to be linked to more fire incidences. For instance, 63 percent of new cases connected to Bunge included in the updated tracker involved fire events on the property. Meanwhile, 55 percent of new cases connected to JBS involved fires. 

Ultimately, no company featured in the tracker can claim a clean supply chainAll companies in the tracker lack full traceability of their direct and/or indirect supply chain and therefore are limited in their validation and investigation of our reports of deforestation. Even the best performer in the tracker, soy trader Amaggi, still only earns a total of 56 points out of 100 points and is connected to more than 5,000 hectares of clearance. 

The Solution 

The buyers and financiers of the soy traders and meatpackers must take significant action that includes contractual penalties if significantly more progress on their zero-deforestation commitments is not made by supplying traders and meatpackersThey should ensure that the soy traders and meatpackers in their supply chain: 

1) Agree to a cut-off date for deforestation in the Cerrado with a 2020 cut-off date 

2) Adopt zero deforestation and zero conversion commitments for all sourcing areas, including those outside of Brazil. 

2) Adopt a suspend-then-engage approach to suppliers with widespread conversion, either legal or illegal 

3) Develop a publicly available joint-monitoring system that includes transparent traceability to farm-level for all suppliers 

4) Commit to the advancement of corporate and government policies that protect Indigenous land and secure workers’ rights 

Want to learn more about our methodology? 

Visit: https://www.mightyearth.org/methodology/ 
*Data reflects company responses as of April 15 2021 

Want to take action? 

Visit our petition pagehttps://actionnetwork.org/petitions/tell-cargill-bunge-jbs-to-act-to-stop-deforestation-in-latin-america  


Smoke in Porto Vehlo

Fanning the Flames: The Corporations Destroying the Amazon and Worsening the COVID-19 Pandemic

September 2020

A new analysis by environmental campaign organization Mighty Earth, working in collaboration with MapHubs, links meat companies JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva to the fires raging in the Amazon and highlights how these fires are likely exacerbating the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on local communities. The report maps the fires intentionally set in Brazil this year and overlays local company supply chain information to understand which companies are driving the destruction. Mighty Earth’s analysis also highlights how these fires are likely exacerbating the impacts of COVID-19. The three hotspot municipalities reported a combined 47,988 cases as of August 16, 2020, and an infection rate more than twice the national average by total population. 

Read the full report here.


Ranking Soy Traders' Performance on Deforestation

September 2020

Mighty Earth’s new report examines the sustainability policies and performance of six of the largest soy traders (Louis Dreyfus Company, Archer-Daniels-Midland Company, Amaggi, COFCO International, Cargill, and Bunge) to determine which traders have the most – and least – land impacts and land rights violations in their supply chain. The analysis is intended to illustrate to buyers, including consumer goods manufacturers and retailers, that certain traders offer less risk and less environmental and social impacts compared to their peers.

Read the full report here.

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How the Sausage Gets Made

May 2020

Every year, the Danish meat giant Danish Crown produces huge amounts of pork from pigs fed with soy that has come from deforested areas in South America. This report from Rainforest Foundation Norway, Mighty Earth in the United States, and Forests of the World in Denmark charts the connection between Danish Crown’s soy imports and environmental destruction in South America.

Read here


The Companies Behind the Burning of the Amazon

August 2019

New maps and analysis from Mighty Earth, based on data from NASA, CONAB, and Imazon and released here for the first time, show which companies are most closely linked to the burning of the Amazon.

Read here


Cargill: The Worst Company in the World

July 2019

Report documents decades of bad acts by US-based agribusiness giant, Cargill, and highlights the need for urgent action.

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Growing the Good

October 2018

Report from the Changing Markets Foundation and Mighty Earth reveals that there is a complete lack of public policies in place to ensure the food sector is part of the solution to climate change.

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The Avoidable Crisis

March 2018

Investigation by Mighty Earth, Rainforest Foundation Norway, and Fern reveals large-scale deforestation, fires, and human rights abuses in Argentina and Paraguay’s Gran Chaco connected to the global meat industry.

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Still At It

May 2017

The "Still At It" investigation found that agriculture giants Cargill and Bunge driving new deforestation the size of about 10,000 football fields in Latin America– just months after these companies were linked to deforestation at the same sites in Bolivia’s Amazon basin and Brazil’s vast Cerrado savannah forest.

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Ultimate Mystery Meat

February 2017

The report reveals the secrets about where the feed for Burger King’s chicken, bacon, and beef come from, and shows that these companies are linked to massive, systematic deforestation to clear sloth and jaguar habitat in Latin America.

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