Finally an investigation whose effects are immediate. Accused of selling beef linked to deforestation in the Amazon, several retail groups, including Auchan and Carrefour, have pledged to remove certain brands from their shelves.
This announcement was made Thursday by the NGO Mighty Earth, after the publication of an investigation by the collective of journalists Repórter Brasil implicating groups such as JBS, Marfrig and Minerva, all specializing in meat. This NGO accuses them of participating in deforestation in certain regions of the country and maintains that the resulting products are found in European supermarkets, in the form of dried beef, corned beef or fresh meat.
Brazilian beef non grata
These revelations harm the image of mass distribution, which tries to display a greener and more ethical image. Brazilian beef is particularly problematic. The deforestation of the Amazon in the country has increased sharply since the coming to power in January 2019 of far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, in favor of the agricultural exploitation of protected areas and territories reserved for the natives. In three years, the equivalent of the area of Lebanon has been razed, mainly for the benefit of soybean cultivation and cattle breeding.
Carrefour has withdrawn from its stores in Belgium a reference of the brand Jack Link’s, which manufactures part of its dried beef in Brazil with JBS, after the report of Mighty Earth. For its part, Auchan told AFP that it had initiated a procedure for the withdrawal of a Jack Link’s product in France and was in the process of investigating its origin. The group also recalls that it does not source Brazilian beef for its private labels. According to Mighty Earth, the Belgian supermarket chain Delhaize has committed “to withdraw all Jack Link’s products from its shelves”.
The NGO also notes the initiatives of several other large retail chains, such as Lidl and Albert Heijn in the Netherlands, as well as Sainsbury’s and Princes in the United Kingdom to avoid selling Brazilian beef whose producers would be linked to actions of deforestation. A spokesman for Sainsbury’s confirmed to AFP that it has initiated a process to source beef for its corned beef products from outside Brazil. As does Albert Heijn, who told AFP: “[Nous] have now made the decision to phase out Brazilian beef, and we are looking for alternatives from other countries of origin.”
The indirect suppliers in question
“These trade measures, along with new EU legislation to tackle imported deforestation, show that the noose is tightening on forest destroyers”, rejoiced Nico Muzi, director of Mighty Earth Europe, quoted in the press release. The EU is indeed working on a law that would prevent the sale of products linked to deforestation on the European market.
For their part, the Brazilian groups vehemently reject these accusations. JBS, the world’s number 1 meat company, said in a statement that it has a zero-tolerance policy “for illegal deforestation”. The manufacturer explained that ten years ago he set up a system of “satellite control of its suppliers” and thus have already excluded “more than 14,000 farms” which did not meet its specifications.
According to JBS, it is currently not possible to “control the suppliers of suppliers in the same way”, but the group says it has invested in a new “green platformto obtain by 2025 “a supply chain without the slightest trace of illegal deforestation”. Marfrig said in a statement “be engaged in the fight against illegal deforestation since 2009 […], following a strict protocol” that its suppliers are required to follow.
Several large Brazilian groups have recently been accused of “cattle laundering”. This practice consists of transferring cattle from a farm whose meat cannot be exported due to illegal deforestation on its land to another, called “own”, not affected by these prohibitions.