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Major Brazilian supermarket chain will stop stocking Amazon-destroying beef

  • Pão de Açúcar, which operates 832 stores across Brazil, has pledged to stop stocking its shelves with beef linked to Amazon deforestation or produced by enslaved workers by June 30.
  • Of the deforestation that occurred between 2008 and 2012, more than 60 percent is used as pastureland, according to the Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.
  • Environmental activists hailed Pão de Açúcar’s decision as a major victory for the Amazon, but cautioned that the hard work still must be done.

The biggest supermarket chain in Brazil has agreed to stop buying beef from cattle ranches that destroy the Amazon or use slave labor.

Pão de Açúcar, which operates 832 stores across the country, has pledged to stop stocking its shelves with beef linked to Amazon deforestation or produced by enslaved workers by June 30.

“We have worked to mitigate the social and environmental risks of our supply chains,” a company spokeswoman said, according to Reuters.

Environmental activists hailed Pão de Açúcar’s decision as a major victory for the Amazon, but cautioned that the hard work still must be done. “To operate in the Amazon, companies must stop buying from farms involved in land grabbing, slavery or deforestation,” Adriana Charoux of Greenpeace told the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “They have a lot of work to do before June 30.”

Charoux said she expects the move by Pão de Açúcar to have a ripple effect as it works with its suppliers to improve their business practices, or cuts ties with them altogether. The supermarket chain has agreed to be transparent about where it’s sourcing its beef from in the future, to allow for independent monitoring of how faithfully the company implements its pledge.

Cattle grazing on a deforested plain in Brazil. Photo by Rhett Butler.

“This is a clear signal to all its suppliers, and the market as a whole, that the meat comes from deforestation is no longer accepted by society,” Charoux said.

Brazil has more cows than people — in 2013, there were close to 60 million head of cattle in the Brazilian Amazon, almost twice as many as there were two decades earlier.

A lot of rainforest has been sacrificed to make way for those cows. Of the deforestation that occurred between 2008 and 2012, more than 60 percent is used as pastureland, according to the Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research.

In 2010, Brazil’s BNDES (Banco Nacional de Desenvolvimento Econômico e Social), the largest development bank in the Americas, adopted guidelines to improve the social and environmental practices of the beef industry, including measures against illegal slaughterhouses, child labor, and deforestation

Thanks to government and corporate initiatives like these, as well as public pressure campaigns that have convinced companies like Pão de Açúcar to forego products tied to forest destruction and human rights violations, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon has dropped significantly in the past decade.

An average of 19,500 square kilometers (7,500 square miles) was destroyed per year between 1995 and 2005, but just 5,843 square kilometers (2,255 square miles) were deforested in 2013.