This diagram shows various supply chain actors, their roles throughout the production phases, and the complexities of monitoring and traceability.
A Brief Introduction to the Brazilian Amazon and Cattle Ranching
Tropical forests provide a wide range of valuable ecosystem services that deliver benefits, such as regulation of local, regional, and global climate. The large-scale loss of forests jeopardizes these critical services, and can negatively impact people and wildlife far beyond the Amazon.
The Amazon biomeThe Amazon biome: Dense tropical moist forest. Harbors over 10% of the species in the world. Covers 6.7 million km2. Spans eight countries (Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, and Suriname) and French Guiana. , covering almost half of the entire Brazilian territory, is an iconic landscape, with priceless human, wildlife, carbon and water storage, and cultural values for Brazil and the whole planet. It also supports millions of people who rely on this region to sustain their livelihoods.
Cattle ranching occurs on over three-fourths of deforested land in the Brazilian Amazon Projet MapBiomas – Collection 5 of Série Anual de Mapas de Cobertura e Uso de Solo do Brasil, https://mapbiomas.org/ and has been a default land use for rural properties for many decades, as part of a complex process that includes land occupation, speculation, and cultural tradition. Over the past several decades, this region has undergone a shift from a relatively loose arrangement of disorganized agricultural producers towards more commercially integrated and export-driven production systems.
From 1993 to 2013, the cattle herd in the Brazilian Amazon biome expanded by nearly 200%, while the herd in the rest of Brazil increased by only 13%.IBGE Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. 2014. Pesquisa Pecuária Municipal In 2013, nearly 60 million cattle occupied the Brazilian Amazon biome.IBGE Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística. 2014. Pesquisa Pecuária Municipal The large-scale expansion of the cattle herd into the Brazilian Amazon has come at great environmental cost, as large expanses of tropical forests have been cut, burned, and converted to pastures. During this period, over 300,000 km2 of forest (an area about the size of Italy) was cleared in the Brazilian Amazon.Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters
Large scale deforestation and expansion of agriculture in the Brazilian Amazon may be a “no-win” scenario for the region as climate feedbacks are likely, to (1) reduce the quantity and frequency of rainfallOliveria, L.J.C., et al. 2013. Large-scale expansion of agriculture in Amazonia may be a no-win scenario. Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 8, No. 2. (2) increase average temperatures and heat extremes,Lawrence, Deborah and Vandecar, Karen. 2015. Effects of tropical deforestation on climate and agriculture. Nature Climate Change, 5, 27-36. and (3) increase the length of dry seasons and the severity of droughts.Lima, L.S., et al. 2013. “Feedbacks between deforestation, climate, and hydrology in the Southwestern Amazon: implications for the provision of ecosystem services.” Landscape Ecology, Vol. 29, Issue 2, 261-274. Under a business as usual scenario, climate feedbacks associated with continued forest destruction could potentially reduce pasture productivity in the Brazilian Amazon by 33% by 2050.Oliveira, L.J.C., et al. 2013. Large-scale expansion of agriculture in Amazonia may be a no-win scenario. Environmental Research Letters, Vol. 8, No. 2. This could have major implications for food security and raw material sourcing, as large-scale productivity losses may result in supply shocks in the market and increase the price volatility of cattle products.
Legal compliance has typically been poor in the cattle sector, and efforts aimed at reforming land-use practices have largely been ineffective. However, this trend has changed significantly in recent years. A combination of supply chain interventions, including commitments to zero deforestation production, and government policies have helped reduce the rates of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon by over 80% in the past decade.Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais (INPE). 2020. Projeto PRODES–monitoriamento da foresta amazônica brasileira por satélite. Projeto–PRODES. Continued support from responsible companies throughout the supply chain is providing critical support for a range of solutions that are helping sever the links between cattle and forest destruction in the Amazon once and for all.
Patterns of herd expansion and forest cover loss in the Brazilian Amazon
Heads of cattle per municipality
Heads of cattle per municipality
Land use and political boundaries
Land use and political boundaries
Further Readings:Agricultural Productivity Depends on Amazon Forests Deforestation-Based Production Contributes to Greater Emissions
Agricultural Productivity Depends on Amazon ForestsClose
Tropical forests provide valuable ecosystem benefits for local, regional, and global communities. They provide habitat for wildlife, support biodiversity, and remove large amounts of greenhouse gases (GHG) from the atmosphere. Forests also help regulate important natural processes, such as rainfall patterns and nutrient cycles, which are critical for the productivity of agriculture.
The overwhelming majority (80–90%) of all the water that reaches the atmosphere, and eventually becomes rainfall, traveling via plant transpiration.Jasechko, S., et al. 2013. Terrestrial water fluxes dominated by transpiration. Nature, Vol. 496, 347-351. The dense moist tropical forests of the Amazon act as giant “water pumps” for much of South America, releasing billions of liters of water vapor from the trees into the atmosphere. In the Amazon, this process of transpiration, in which water vapor rises from the forests and falls again as rain, while flowing westward across the continent, has been referred to as “flying rivers”—the flow moves upriver toward the Andes Mountains, and then veers off, south and north, when it hits the mountain slopes. In this process, the rains generated by the forests supply substantial amounts of water to critical agricultural areas and densely populated metropolitan centers across South America.
The large scale loss of tropical forests in the Amazon can trigger complex interactions between the atmosphere and biosphere.Lima, L.S., et al. 2013. “Feedbacks between deforestation, climate, and hydrology in the Southwestern Amazon: implications for the provision of ecosystem services.” Landscape Ecology, Vol. 29, Issue 2, 261-274. In the Amazon, the large scale conversion of forests to pastures could lead to an increase in average surface temperature of almost 1.5°C (2.7°F) Prevedello, J. A., Winck, G. R., Weber, M. M., Nichols, E., & Sinervo, B. (2019). Impacts of forestation and deforestation on local temperature across the globe. PloS one, 14(3), e0213368. , and a decrease in precipitation by up to 20%. Zemp, D. C., Schleussner, C. F., Barbosa, H., & Rammig, A. (2017). Deforestation effects on Amazon forest resilience. Geophysical Research Letters, 44(12), 6182-6190. The degradation of these critical ecosystem services could decrease the availability of viable pasture and alter the geography of agricultural production, significantly jeopardizing the potential productivity of agriculture in Brazil. These drastic changes could cause severe economic losses of up to US$422 million annually. Conversely, the economic value of conserving the Amazon could be up to US$8.2 billion a year. Strand, J., Soares-Filho, B., Costa, M. H., Oliveira, U., Ribeiro, S. C., Pires, G. F., … & Siikamäki, J. (2018). Spatially explicit valuation of the Brazilian Amazon forest’s ecosystem services. Nature Sustainability, 1(11), 657-664.
In addition, deforestation in the Amazon can act as a driver of global climate change and may impact rainfall patterns in areas as far as the western United States.Medvigy, D., et al. 2013. Simulated changes in Northwest U.S. climate in response to Amazon deforestation. Journal of Climate, Vol. 26, 9115-9136. Large scale forest loss in the Amazon has been projected to potentially reduce rainfall by up to 20% in the coastal northwest United States and by up to 50% in the Sierra Nevada snowpack, jeopardizing critical agricultural production.Medvigy, D., et al. 2013. Simulated changes in Northwest U.S. climate in response to Amazon deforestation. Journal of Climate, Vol. 26, 9115-9136.
Large scale productivity losses in these major agricultural areas could pose serious consequences for food security and may potentially cause supply shocks in the market and increase the price volatility of agricultural products.
Commitments to verified zero deforestation cattle production throughout the supply chain are helping to ensure that forests are conserved, safeguarding valuable ecosystem services and the benefits that they provide.
Deforestation-Based Production Contributes to Greater EmissionsClose
The global beef industry has recently faced mounting criticism due to the greenhouse gas (GHG) footprint associated with cattle production,Eshel, G., et al. 2014. Land, irrigation water, greenhouse gas, and reactive nitrogen burdens of meat, eggs, and dairy production in the United States. PNAS, Vol. 111, No. 3.,Caro, D., et al. 2014. Global and regional trends in greenhouse gas emissions from livestock. Climatic Change, Vol. 126, Issue 1-2, 203-216.,Herrero, M., et al. 2013. Biomass use, production, feed efficiencies, and greenhouse gas emissions from global livestock systems. PNAS, Vol. 110, No. 52. which is much larger than other forms of livestock, and amounts to about 9.4% of total global GHG emissions.Gerber, P.J., et al. 2013. Tackling climate change through livestock – A global assessment of emissions and mitigation opportunities. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Rome. There are a wide range of emissions sources associated with cattle, including enteric fermentation (a large source of methane emissions from digestive processes), feed production for use in concentrated feedlots, and land use change, such as deforestation.
Beef produced on recently deforested land can result in up to 25 times more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than beef produced on established pastures
Cattle has become one of the largest drivers of deforestation in Brazil, accounting for up to 80% of all emissions from land use change. All cattle production systems produce emissions, but where forests are cleared for pasture, the emissions are even larger.Bowman, M. S., Soares-Filho, B. S., Merry, F. D., Nepstad, D. C., Rodrigues, H., & Almeida, O. T. (2012). Persistence of cattle ranching in the Brazilian Amazon: A spatial analysis of the rationale for beef production. Land Use Policy, 29(3), 558-568. Cattle produced on recently deforested land in the Brazilian Amazon can have a GHG footprint that is up to 25 times higher than cattle produced on established pasture (28 versus 726 kg CO2 equivalent per kg of meat, respectively).Cederberg, C., et al. 2011. Including Carbon Emissions from Deforestation in the Carbon Footprint of Brazilian Beef. Environmental Science and Technology, 45(5), 1773-1779. Therefore, one of the most effective ways to reduce the GHG footprint of beef, leather, tallow and other cattle-derived products is to ensure that cattle are produced under a fully verified zero deforestation system.
In addition, support for ranching practices that improve productivity on established pastures can help decrease emissions per animal. Moderate intensification, which includes relatively low-tech and cost effective practices, such as fencing, rotational grazing, and improved grass mixtures can help improve productivity and recover degraded pastures.Hall, Simon; Sarsfield, Ryan; and Walker, Nathalie (2015). GRSB-GTPS Joint Working Group on Forests (JWG) Workshop Report: Investing in Smart Production. National Wildlife Federation. Therefore, the cattle sector can continue to meet growing demand for beef, leather, tallow, and other cattle-derived products without further deforestation. This outcome can be achieved while improving the profitability of the ranching sector and reducing GHG emissions on a per unit basis.
Supply Chain Links and Market Connections
Supply chain initiatives are supporting effective solutions to verified zero deforestation beef, leather, and tallow production in the Brazilian Amazon.
With the largest commercial cattle herd in the world, Brazil is currently at the forefront of both global production and international trade. The expansion of the cattle herd in the Amazon biome played a key role in meeting the growing demand, both within Brazil and internationally, for beef, leather, and tallow.
Despite its position as a global leader in exports, the majority of beef produced in Brazil (about 80%) is consumed domestically.Associação Brasileira das Indústrias Exportadoras de Carne (ABIEC). Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). Animal Slaughter Quarterly Survey.Large multi-national retailers, including three of the world’s largest (Walmart, Carrefour, and Pão de Açúcar/ Casino Group) and global brands, such as Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, Mars, and Nestle, play a prominent role in the domestic market.
In 2019, the top Brazilian export markets for beef were China (including Hong Kong), Egypt, and the European Union. China alone accounts for nearly half of all exports (49.9% by value).United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Divisions, Trade Statistics (UN Comtrade Database), 2021. While China and Russia tend to dominate overall trade, the United States, United Kingdom and European Union are (by far) the largest export destinations for processed beef products, accounting for 56%, 15%, and 14% of total processed beef exports in 2019, respectively. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Divisions, Trade Statistics (UN Comtrade Database), 2021.
The primary export destinations for Brazilian hides and leather (by value) are China, the United States, and Italy.United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Divisions, Trade Statistics (UN Comtrade Database), 2015. As top global leather processors, these nations export the majority of finished leather goods to the United States and the European Union,United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Statistics Divisions, Trade Statistics (UN Comtrade Database), 2021.highlighting the importance of market integration in leather supply chains.
Tallow has a wide range of applications, including pet food, pharmaceuticals, and personal care products, such as soaps. In Brazil, tallow is also used in the production of biodiesel, which typically consists of a feedstock ratio of about 20% tallow. As fuel blend mandates continue to increase the proportions of biodiesel, tallow is likely to become an increasingly important feedstock for the energy and transportation sectors, both within Brazil and internationally.
Global commodity markets for beef, leather, and tallow products are dynamic. As the Brazilian cattle sector seeks to expand market coverage and establish new trade partners in both developed and emerging economies, commodity flows will shift to meet market demands. Consumption preferences in end-user countries and sourcing criteria of multi-national brands can send strong market signals that resonate throughout the value chain.
In the past several years, there has been a tremendous surge in corporate zero deforestation commitments (see further reading on Surge in Zero Deforestation Commitments), and an increasing number of these have a cross-commodity scope, which cover cattle products. Continued support for verified zero deforestation beef, leather, and tallow can foster wide ranging, lasting, solution-oriented transformation of the market for Brazilian cattle products.
Brazilian beef and leather products
As one of the leading producers and exporters of beef and leather products, the Brazilian cattle sector is highly integrated into both domestic and international markets. January–December 2017, Source: ABIEC, 2019
Top trade destinations:
Further Readings:Surge in Zero Deforestation Commitments Clandestine Markets Domestic Consumption and Export Markets
Surge in Zero Deforestation CommitmentsClose
In the past several years, there has been a surge in zero deforestation commitments. In 2010, the board of the Consumer Goods Forum (CGF), a global industry network of more than 400 retailers, manufacturers, service providers, and associations, approved a board resolution, pledging to mobilize resources to achieve zero net deforestation by 2020. The CGF aims to achieve this through the responsible sourcing of key agricultural commodities, including beef. In support of this commitment, the CGF joined with others to create the Tropical Forest Alliance 2020 (TFA), which brings together industry, national governments and civil society groups in the largest public-private initiative of its type, to address deforestation and the sourcing of beef and other key commodities. In 2020, CGF launched the Forest Positive Coalition of Action, which builds on their original commitments. Consumer Goods Forum (CGF). New Consumer Goods Coalition to Accelerate Systemic Effort to Remove Deforestation and Forest Degradation from Key Commodity Supply Chains.
In 2014, governments, multi-national companies, and civil society groups came together at the United Nations Climate Summit to sign the New York Declaration on Forests, a pledge to support public and private sector goals aimed at eliminating deforestation from the production of agricultural commodities, including beef. A few of the key targets include: United Nations Climate Summit. New York Declaration on Forests.
- Cut the rate of global deforestation in half by 2020 and strive to end forest loss by 2030.
- Restore 150 million hectares of degraded landscapes by 2020 and 200 million hectares by 2030.
- Strengthen forest governance and transparency
- Reward countries and jurisdictions that, by taking action, reduce forest emissions—particularly through public policy and private sector sourcing.
Achieving these (and other) target outcomes could reduce emissions by 4.5–8.8 billion tons per year by 2030.
In addition, a myriad of retailers and manufacturers have individually stepped up, to make commitments to zero deforestation, including prominent global brands such as Mars,Mars, Deforestation & Land Use Change Position. Colgate-Palmolive,Colgate-Palmolive, No Deforestation Policy. January, 2019. Walmart,Walmart, Deforestation Policy. November, 2017. Nestle,Nestle, What is Nestle doing to ensure zero deforestation?. Tesco,Tesco, Deforestation. and many more. There are now more than 580 commitments to deforestation-free supply chains across the “big four” commodities (palm oil, pulp & paper, cattle, and soy). Commitments to zero deforestation production are helping support positive solution-oriented improvements throughout commodity value chains. The implementation of these commitments will drive on-the-ground transformation and help ensure that beef, leather, and tallow can continue to be produced in the Brazilian Amazon without jeopardizing tropical forests.
For real-time news, data, and analysis that catalogues company commitments to zero deforestation, please visit Supply-Change, a web-based platform developed by Forest Trends.
For an assessment of deforestation commitments made by some of the world’s most influential companies, please visit the Forest 500.
According to Brazilian law, meat production facilities are subject to government inspection, to ensure compliance with food safety and hygiene standards. However, these requirements do not extend to non-food items, such as hides and leather. The relative lack of controls on hide/leather production has helped facilitate a clandestine market for these products.
The clandestine market can be estimated by comparing the total number of hides processed with the total number of reported head of cattle slaughtered.Walker, N.F., Patel, S.A., and Kalif, K.A.B. 2013. From Amazon pasture to the high street: deforestation and the Brazilian cattle product supply chain. Tropical Conservation Science – Special Issue, Vol. 6 (3): 446-467. As indicated by the figure, the number of hides produced is consistently greater than the total reported number of cattle slaughtered, providing an estimate of the clandestine market. Although the number of unregistered slaughters has steadily decreased over the past several years, leather tanneries still processed almost 1 million hides in 2019 that could not be attributed to documented cattle slaughter.
Estimates of the Number of Cattle Slaughtered by the Clandestine Cattle Industry Walker, N.F., Patel, S.A., and Kalif, K.A.B. 2013. From Amazon pasture to the high street: deforestation and the Brazilian cattle product supply chain. Tropical Conservation Science – Special Issue, Vol. 6 (3): 446-467.
Due to the relative lack of controls on hide/leather production, it is likely that these clandestine hides enter legitimate markets, both domestically in Brazil and as exports to leather producing countries, such as Italy and China. Because their origins are undocumented, this means that handbags, shoes, upholstery, or other leather goods may have potentially been produced on recently deforested land or using slave labor. The Leather Working Group (LWG), a multi-stakeholder group whose members include some of the world’s largest footwear and fashion brands, has developed an environmental auditing protocol. This protocol requests traceability back to slaughterhouse (which can avoid purchase of hides originating from clandestine slaughter), and hides from animals originating in the Brazilian Amazon should be traceable to a ranch with no post-2009 deforestation (in line with the G4 Zero Deforestation Cattle Agreement described in Chapter 3).
In order to ensure that leather products are not contributing to the loss of forests, and human rights violations or other illegalities, procurement should be limited, exclusively, to meatpackers which have implemented systems for monitoring and traceability for verified zero deforestation production.
Domestic Consumption and Export MarketsClose
Brazil’s beef export market has rapidly expanded in recent decades, outpacing the growth of domestic consumption in Brazil. Between 1994 and 2009, domestic consumption of beef increased by nearly 50%,Walker, N.F., Patel, S.A., and Kalif, K.A.B. 2013. From Amazon pasture to the high street: deforestation and the Brazilian cattle product supply chain. Tropical Conservation Science – Special Issue, Vol. 6 (3): 446-467.while exports increased by over 500%. The Brazilian beef export market has continued to grow since, reaching a record setting $7.6 billion in 2019.Ministério do Desenvolvimento Indústria e Comércio Exterior (MDIC), Secretaria do Comércio Exterior (Secex). ComexStat.
Brazilian Beef Domestic Consumption versus Exports (Carcass Weight Equivalent x1000 MT) Walker, N.F., Patel, S.A., and Kalif, K.A.B. 2013. From Amazon pasture to the high street: deforestation and the Brazilian cattle product supply chain. Tropical Conservation Science – Special Issue, Vol. 6 (3): 446-467.
Associação Brasileira das Indústrias Exportadoras de Carne (ABIEC).
IBGE. Quarterly Survey of Animal Slaughter.
The growth in the relative share of exports helps highlight the increasing importance of global supply chain actors and the level of global market integration of Brazilian beef products, especially in countries such as Russia and China, which account for the majority of trade.
Through responsible procurement and commitments to verified zero deforestation production, supply chain actors, both within Brazil and internationally, can support forest-friendly ranching practices and help conserve ecologically sensitive areas, such as the Amazon.
Reversing Course: How Supply Chain Solutions are Transforming the Brazilian Cattle Sector
Pressure from international retailers and brands, environmental groups, and the federal government, led major meatpackers in Brazil to make public commitments to stop directly sourcing cattle from ranches with deforestation and illegal activity.
During the past decade, significant strides have been made towards reducing cattle-driven deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. In 2009, high profile campaigns by non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and pressure from the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Offices (Ministério Público Federal, or MPF) in Pará, led to two important supply chain interventions: (1) the MPF-TAC Agreement, and (2) the G4 Cattle Agreement.Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.
(1) MPF-TAC Agreement: The MPFs sued large ranchers who cleared forest illegally and the slaughterhouses that bought from them, and used threats of litigation to convince Brazilian retailers to boycott slaughterhouses connected to illegal deforestation. In response, individual meatpacking companies began signing legally binding TAC agreements with the MPF (Terms of Adjustment of Conduct) in July 2009. Such agreements forestall prosecution in return for the meatpackers’ commitments to avoid purchases from properties with illegal deforestation, and are now in place for two-thirds of the federally inspected slaughterhouses (SIFs) in the Legal Amazon.Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.
(2) Zero Deforestation/G4 Cattle Agreement In October 2009, Brazil’s largest meatpacking companies (JBS, Marfrig, Minerva, and Bertin—the latter one was subsequently purchased by JBS) also signed a zero deforestation agreement with Greenpeace, known as the G4 or Zero Deforestation Cattle Agreement. Under the agreement, these meatpackers committed to set up monitoring systems to block the purchase of cattle from ranches with deforestation and illegal activities. The G4 meatpackers collectively account for around half of the documented slaughter in the Legal Amazon, so this commitment has a wide reach.Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.
The two agreements share many similarities. Under both, meatpacking companies committed to block sales from properties with deforestation occurring after the agreements, or that were not registered in the Rural Environmental Registry (CAR), a Brazilian system for storing georeferenced property boundaries for monitoring purposes.
The MPF-TAC agreements emphasize avoiding illegal deforestation, as defined by the Brazilian Forest Code, which stipulates minimum reserve areas on properties that must remain forested. The G4 Agreement goes beyond legality and prohibits any forest clearing, even if it is within the legal limit.
Major slaughterhouses in the Brazilian Amazon that have (and do not have) a zero deforestation agreement
This figure shows federally inspected slaughterhouses in the Amazon biome (Serviço de Inspeção Federal—SIF). Nearly 90% of these slaughterhouses are covered by zero deforestation cattle agreements, including both the G4 and MPF-TAC (for more information, see Further Reading section below). Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.
Further Readings:Severing the Link Between Deforestation and Cattle The Brazilian Forest Code Rural Environmental Registry System (CAR)
Severing the Link Between Deforestation and CattleClose
This figure illustrates annual deforestation rates and the growth of the cattle herd in the Brazilian Amazon biome. From 1990 to 2004, there is evidence of a positive correlation between forest loss and cattle production, with both increasing during this period. However, post-2004, the rate of deforestation declines considerably, while the average rate of cattle production continues to increase.
Cattle production and deforestation trends in the Brazilian Amazon biome, 1990-2018 Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.
Note: Deforestation data between 1990–2000 from Legal Amazon only. No PRODES shapefile for Amazon biome available before 2000.
This helps demonstrate that cattle production does not need to come at the expense of forests. The cattle sector in the Brazilian Amazon can grow sustainably by increasing the productive capacity of existing pastures.
The Brazilian Forest CodeClose
The Brazilian Forest Code was established in 1965, creating a legal framework for forest governance in Brazil and was replaced by the New Brazilian Forest Code, Law No. 12,651, of May 25, 2012. Although far from perfect, the Brazilian Forest Code remains one of the most comprehensive pieces of legislation governing forests on private lands in the world.
Among the most important components of the Forest Code is the designation of Legal Reserves (LRs), which establish the minimum area (as a percentage of the property) that must be retained as primary forest vegetation. While some exclusions and exemptions do exist, in general, the Legal Reserve designates a set aside that occupies 80% of the property in the Amazon biome, 35% in the Cerrado biome (if located in the Legal Amazon, otherwise 20%), and 20% in all other areas of the country. Therefore, the Legal Reserve represents the area of the property in which deforestation is prohibited.
In addition, the Forest Code also designates environmentally sensitive areas as Areas of Permanent Preservation (APPs), aiming to conserve water resources and prevent soil erosion. APPs include both Riparian Preservation Areas (RPAs) that protect riverside forest buffers as well as Hilltop Preservation Areas (HPAs) for high elevation and steep slopes. The newly amended Forest Code also includes mechanisms to address fire management, forest carbon stocks, and payments for ecosystem services.
One of these new mechanisms is the Environmental Reserve Quota (Portuguese acronym, CRA), a tradable legal title to land areas with intact or regenerating native vegetation exceeding the requirements of the Legal Reserves (LR). The CRA (surplus) on one property may be used to offset a Legal Reserve debt (i.e. a property with less than the minimum requirement of forest cover) on another property within the same biome and, preferably, within the same municipality or state. Full implementation of the CRA could create a viable trading market for forested lands, incentivizing forest conservation. The CRA market could abate up to 56% of the LR debt.Soares-Filho, B., et al. 2014. Cracking Brazil’s Forest Code. Science Vol 344, No 6182, 363-364. Exchange of CRAs could become a cost-effective way to facilitate compliance, while protecting forest surpluses that might otherwise be legally deforested.
Rural Environmental Registry System (CAR)Close
In 2010, the Brazilian government made it mandatory that all rural properties be mapped and registered in a database, known as the CAR (Cadastro Ambiental Rural). The CAR database holds geospatial data on property boundaries as well as environmental information on rural agricultural production. This database is intended to be a strategic tool for controlling, monitoring, and reducing deforestation in Brazil. Registration in the CAR is also used by financial institutions as a criterion in the consideration of credit worthiness for both public and private agricultural loans.
From a supply chain perspective, the CAR represents an effective tool to increase transparency of ranch-level practices. This will allow an unprecedented level of understanding of deforestation patterns and land-use dynamics in beef, leather, and tallow supply chains. While this progress will greatly support companies actively committed to responsible sourcing, it will expose those companies that have not acted appropriately to exclude ranchers involved with deforestation and illegal activities from their supply chains.
While the CAR represents a significant step forward for Brazilian agriculture, it is important to recognize its limitations—the CAR, in of itself, cannot prevent deforestation, it only allows it to be detected. Also, the CAR does not grant land title. It only registers an individual with a property claim, and therefore must be used in conjunction with other legal documentation to verify the claim.
To ensure the most effective application of the CAR, efforts should be made to link it to public-private initiatives that encourage verified zero deforestation supply chains.
Assessing Impacts: Measuring the Effectiveness of the Zero Deforestation Cattle Agreements
A study of the Cattle Agreements by Gibbs et al. 2015Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters. shows that JBS, the largest beef processor in the world, has made substantial changes to its procurement criteria, effectively blocking purchases from direct supplying ranches in southern Pará that had recent deforestation and illegal activities.
Supply chain interventions, such as the Cattle Agreements, offer a promising solution to commodity-driven deforestation. As multi-national companies continue to make commitments to stop sourcing from farms and ranches with recent deforestation, these types of initiatives are growing increasingly more powerful as pragmatic solutions to commodity-driven deforestation. The scope, terms, and implementation of these initiatives are critical to ensure effective safeguards for forests and the environment both within Brazil and elsewhere in the tropics.
An analysis by Gibbs et al. 2015Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters. of the Cattle Agreements demonstrates that they significantly and rapidly changed meatpacker and rancher behavior in the state of Pará. Rancher surveys, and rigorous property-level and statistical analyses were combined to demonstrate the following:
- JBS slaughterhouses significantly changed purchase behavior and sourcing criteria, and now actively block sales from direct suppliers with deforestation.Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.
- Supplying ranchers were rapidly incentivized to register their properties in the publicly available Rural Environmental Registry (CAR), more than two years ahead of surrounding properties.Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.
- Supplying ranchers responded to the market signals and dramatically reduced deforestation on their properties.Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.
The integration of forest governance policies and supply chain initiatives offers unprecedented levels of transparency, enabling detailed understanding of both the patterns of property-level forest cover loss and transaction information throughout the supply chain.
Despite these important changes in the cattle sector, potential leakage and loopholes reduce the overall impacts for forest conservation. There are still major challenges that need to be addressed in order to ensure fully verifiable zero deforestation supply chains for cattle products from the Brazilian Amazon (Gibbs et al. 2015Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.).
Property Boundaries and Forest Cover of Supplying and Non-Supplying Ranches in Pará
The following maps show forest cover loss and the change in a sample of supplying properties to JBS slaughterhouses in Pará before the Zero Deforestation Agreements (prior to 2009) and after the Agreements (2010 to 2013). Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters.
Property-Level Supply Chain Mapping
The combination of property maps, remote sensing data, and supply chain information provides unprecedented levels of transparency, helping transform blank maps into useful tools that enable researchers to identify, track, and measure the effectiveness of the Zero Deforestation Agreements.
This map shows supplying properties to JBS before the Agreements (prior to 2009) and deforestation from 2006 to 2009. As illustrated by this map, prior to the Zero Deforestation Agreements, there were several properties which had deforestation and who also supplied JBS.
This map shows supplying properties to JBS and deforestation after the Agreements (2010 to 2013). As illustrated by this map, all of the 2012 and 2013 suppliers to JBS did not have any deforestation from 2010 to 2013.
Compliance - Example 1
This post-agreement compliance map identifies one specific example of how the Zero Deforestation Agreements was effective:
This example shows a property who supplied JBS before the Agreements and who also had deforestation from 2006 to 2009, but after the Agreements deforestation stopped, and this property was able to remain a supplier to JBS in 2012 and 2013.
Compliance - Example 2
This post-agreement compliance map identifies one specific example of how the Zero Deforestation Agreements was effective:
This example shows a property who supplied JBS before the Agreements and who had deforestation from 2006 to 2009, but after the Agreements deforestation continued, and therefore this property was effectively blocked from supplying JBS.
Further Readings:JBS Alters Purchase Criteria
JBS Alters Purchase CriteriaClose
Panel analysis results demonstrate that the JBS slaughterhouses were significantly less likely to purchase from properties with recent deforestation by 2012 (p 55 Prior to the agreements, deforestation did not have a statistically significant impact on their purchasing selection. At least some of the deforestation assessed by our models for 2010 and 2011 occurred prior to the agreements; 2012 is the first year we would expect a full response.
Pathway Forward: Next Steps Needed to Ensure Fully Verifiable Deforestation-Free Production
Preventing deforestation is compatible with the growth of the cattle sector in Brazil. Improvements to pasture and herd management could allow substantial increases in the Amazon cattle herd on existing pasture. This can be achieved while improving the profitability of the ranching sector and safeguarding the ecological values of the Amazon.
The property-level analysis by Gibbs et al. 2015Gibbs, H.K., Munger, J., L’Roe, J., Barreto, P., Pereira, R., Christie, M., Amaral, T. and Walker, N.F. (2015). Did Ranchers and Slaughterhouses Respond to Zero Deforestation Agreements in the Brazilian Amazon? Conservation Letters. on the effectiveness of the cattle agreements, as they apply to JBS slaughterhouses in Pará, demonstrates that they have altered their procurement criteria and now monitor their suppliers. Tens of thousands of properties are effectively monitored now, an enormous achievement of the cattle sector.
Despite this progress, major challenges still remain to ensuring fully verified zero deforestation cattle production. The G4 Agreement only extends to three meatpacking companies, which leaves about half of the documented slaughter in the Brazilian Amazon exposed to relatively minimal (if any) monitoring for deforestation and illegal activities. In addition, direct suppliersDirect suppliers (or Tier 1 ranches), are properties that sell cattle to meatpackers/ slaughterhouses. Direct suppliers are typically fattening (or finishing) ranches, which cover the final phases of the production lifecycle. are the only segment of the supply chain that is current covered by these monitoring efforts. Cattle can move from calving ranches and fattening farms through middlemen and other indirect suppliersIndirect suppliers (or Tier 2 and Tier 3) are properties that do not sell cattle to the meatpacker/ slaughterhouse, but rather sell, trade, and transfer cattle to other ranches throughout the production lifecycle. Indirect suppliers typically cover earlier production stages, including breeding and rearing operations, such as cow-calf systems. without being monitored. Preliminary evidence indicates that the majority of deforestation is now likely occurring on these indirect supplying ranches.
In addition, there are currently no unified and robust audits to check the criteria of the commitments. To ensure compliance with the agreements, a uniform, independent auditing system is needed. The results of these audits should be publicly available so that all stakeholders in the supply chain can make informed decisions about the performance of this sector.
There are several ways that retailers, manufacturers, and other supply chain actors (including individuals and families) can help ensure environmentally sound, socially responsible, and economically viable cattle ranching in the Brazilian Amazon.
To build collaborative solutions and scale up verified zero deforestation cattle production, supply chain actors should participate in the GRSB-GTPS Joint Working Group on Forests (JWG). The JWG is a technical working group of the Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) and the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock (GTPS), focused on engagement and collaboration to address forest-related issues in cattle supply chains.
The complexities of the Brazilian cattle supply chain
The complexities of the Brazilian cattle supply chain
G4 meatpackers have implemented effective monitoring systems to cover transactions with direct suppliers (Tier 1 ranches).
The movement of cattle can occur through various channels, including auctions, traders, and other middlemen.
Cattle can also move between indirect suppliers (ranch-to-ranch transfers) throughout all production phases, including breeding, rearing, and fattening.
Because most suppliers are not full-cycle ranches, which cover all production phases, there are significant challenges associated with monitoring and traceability of indirect suppliers (Tier 2 and Tier 3 ranches).
Further Readings:Complexities of the Cattle Supply Chain A Guide to Solution-Oriented Options Productive Capacity of Existing Pasture Moderate Intensification
Complexities of the Cattle Supply ChainClose
The cattle supply chain in Brazil is made up of a complex network of producers, which cover various segments and combinations of the three primary productions phases: (1) breeding, (2) rearing, and (3) fattening.
Direct vs. Indirect Suppliers: An example of a Brazilian Cattle Supply Chain (under G4 monitoring)
- Feeder phase covering reproduction, suckling, and early maturity.
- Indirect Suppliers (Tier 3 ranches) that sell to rearing (stocker) operations and other production phases, but transfers between breeding operations can also occur.
- Limited (if any) monitoring and traceability on these properties currently.
- Intermediary phases covering early to late maturity.
- Indirect suppliers (Tier 2 ranches) that sell pre-finished cattle to fattening ranches, but transfers between different rearing operations can also occur.
- Limited (if any) monitoring and traceability on these properties currently.
- Final production phase covering cattle finishing.
- Direct suppliers (Tier 1 ranches) that sell finished cattle to meatpackers.
- Monitoring and traceability can more effectively cover cattle raised on these properties.
Cattle Supply Chains
Supply chain monitoring and traceability can be challenging for cattle production systems.
Ranches can cover various phases (and combinations of phases) of the production cycle, and therefore cattle move between multiple ranches. Transfers and movement of cattle can occur throughout every phase of the production cycle, including ranch-to-ranch transfers (in formal and informal transactions), auctions, through traders and other middlemen. This creates challenges for traceability and monitoring, especially for Tier 2 and Tier 3 suppliers. Support for efforts aimed at addressing indirect suppliers (Tier 2 and Tier 3 ranches) can help close some of the current gaps in monitoring, reduce reputational risks associated with deforestation and illegal activity, and help ensure fully verified zero deforestation supply chains for Brazilian cattle products.
The following supply chain examples help illustrate the various combinations of production systems and the complexities involved with monitoring and traceability.
Example 1: Full Cycle Production System (Breeding-Rearing-Fattening)
Full cycle ranches cover all production phases (breeding, rearing, and fattening). Relative to partial cycle systems, full cycle ranches (or aggregated production systems) offer greater coverage for monitoring and traceability. However, even ranches capable of full cycle production buy and sell cattle at different production phases, and these supplying properties may not necessarily be covered by monitoring and traceability systems.
Example 2: Partial Cycle Production System (Breeding-Rearing)
Example 3: Partial Cycle Production System (Rearing-Fattening)
Partial cycle systems cover combinations of the production phases (in this example both rearing and fattening). In this supply chain structure, cattle must move between various combinations of production phases. In addition, transfers and movement of cattle can occur between these production phases, including ranch-to-ranch transfers (in formal and informal transactions), auctions, through traders and other middlemen. These disaggregated production systems, pose significant challenges for monitoring and traceability throughout the supply chain.
Partial cycle supply production systems that consist of single phase ranches represent the greatest challenges for monitoring and traceability. In this supply chain structure, cattle must move between every single production phase. In addition, transfers and movement of cattle can occur between these production phases, including ranch-to-ranch transfers (in formal and informal transactions), auctions, through traders and other middlemen. These highly disaggregated production systems, pose the most significant challenges for monitoring and traceability throughout the supply chain.
A Guide to Solution-Oriented OptionsClose
This guide presents a general overview of public-private initiatives, certification, and technical traceability tools to help promote verified zero deforestation production. To ensure lasting and systemic transformation at scale, these should be integrated with moderate intensification and other ranch-level practices aimed at improving both pasture and herd productivity on existing pastures, and therefore reducing pressures to deforest additional areas. For more information on moderate intensification practices, see FURTHER READING section.
Certification—Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)
The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Standard for Sustainable Cattle Production Systems provides a voluntary certification system for cattle ranches that are interested in improving their environmental, social, labor, and operational performance and marketing their products with the Rainforest Alliance Certified Seal. The standard, which only applies to farms where cattle have access to pasture, includes the following principles: integrated management systems, sustainable pasture management, animal welfare and carbon-footprint reduction.
Roundtables (GRSB and GTPS)
The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) developed Principles and Criteria as a means to define sustainable beef and to provide a framework for advancing continuous improvement in the global beef value chain. Using this as a guiding framework, the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock (GTPS) is developing country-specific standards, indicators, and common practices to be adopted by the sector, which will contribute to the development of sustainable cattle ranching Brazil. The indicators being developed by the GTPS will support continuous improvements in the sector and provide metrics for measuring progress.
There are a number of different methods that allow for the unique identification and tracking of cattle. These vary in sophistication from ear tags through to the use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) microchip technology.SafeTrace. A Cadeia da Carne Rastreada. RFID tags can provide georeferenced data and biophysical information. This technology can be used to geo-reference the location of cattle and track movement across a landscape. It can also be used to optimize productivity, enabling precise monitoring of weight gain and other biophysical indicators. Once a chip is implanted in the animal, the animal’s location can be identified and information about the animal can be accessed, such as date of birth, breed, owner, health and immunization records. The use of RFID microchips can significantly improve traceability and monitoring of cattle throughout the entire production cycle, from birth to slaughter. This technology has been proven at scale in Uruguay, where all of the country’s 12 million head of cattle are electronically tagged at birth.Rebufello, P., et al. 2012. Uruguay Streamlines Livestock Traceability. ESRI News.
Despite its advantages for both traceability and productivity, this technology can be cost-prohibitive for some producers, especially small holders, who may be unable to leverage economies of scales. Lower cost options exist, such as a readable electronic bolus,Fallon, R. J. (2001). The development and use of electronic ruminal boluses as a vehicle for bovine identification. Revue Scientifique et Technique-Office International des Epizooties, 20(2), 480-490. which contains a chip that stores information about each animal such as place of birth, and is removed upon slaughter.Fallon, R. J. (2001). The development and use of electronic ruminal boluses as a vehicle for bovine identification. Revue Scientifique et Technique-Office International des Epizooties, 20(2), 480-490.
These technologies are being increasingly employed in Brazil, such as by the supermarket group Carrefour, which is using traceability systems to allow customers to identify the ranches that supply the beef they buy from Carrefour’s “Garantia de Origem” program.Carrefour. Produtos Garantia de Origem.
Large Brazilian meatpackers are considering the use of traceability information collected to ensure inoculation against hoof and mouth disease (an “Animal Transportation Guide” or GTA) towards ensuring that cattle have not been present on farms on government “black lists” such as for illegal deforestation, in what would be a “Green GTA”.JBS 2014. Plano de Trabalho JBS – Acordo Greenpeace.
The Brazilian NGO, Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) is currently testing a system to monitor direct and indirect suppliers of livestock for deforestation and other sustainability issues. This system will be implemented in the coming months in a verified zero deforestation beef program called Novo Campo, in northern Mato Grosso state in the Brazilian Amazon. It is a pioneering, workable solution to effectively control the beef supply chain in the Amazon. All the participating ranches are checked for legal compliance, must provide details of all their suppliers and then the same checks are made of these supplying ranches (indirect suppliers.) The participating ranches are only able to sell through the Novo Campo program if all of their suppliers also adhere to these environmental criteria.
Territorial Performance System (Jurisdictional Approach)
Cattle ranching is one of the leading drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, however, other drivers, such as crop production, mineral extraction, and infrastructure development projects also contribute to the loss of forests. While supply chain solutions are helping transform commodity-specific impacts, there is growing concern that a more holistic cross-commodity approach is needed to ensure safeguards for forests. Although still theoretical, a jurisdictional approach (e.g. zero deforestation zones, ZDZ and other territorial performance systems), when integrated with existing supply chain initiatives, REDD+ mechanisms, and forest governance policy may offer a unified approach that drives sustainable production across an entire jurisdiction (national, state, and/or municipal level).
Productive Capacity of Existing PastureClose
According to a study by Strassburg et al. 2014, the productivity of Brazil’s then 115 million hectares of cultivated pasturelands was only 32–34% of its potential; increasing productivity to 49–52% of the potential would suffice to meet demands for meat (as well as crops, wood products, and biofuels) until at least 2040, without further conversion of natural ecosystems.Strassburg, B. B. N., et al. 2014. When enough should be enough: Improving the use of current agricultural lands could meet production demands and spare natural habitats in Brazil. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 28, 84-87. As a result up to 14.3 Gt CO2 Eq. could be mitigated.Strassburg, B. B. N., et al. 2014. When enough should be enough: Improving the use of current agricultural lands could meet production demands and spare natural habitats in Brazil. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 28, 84-87.
Current Productivity and Sustainable Carrying Capacity of Cultivated Pasturelands in Brazil Strassburg, B. B. N., et al. 2014. When enough should be enough: Improving the use of current agricultural lands could meet production demands and spare natural habitats in Brazil. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 28, 84-87.
Cattle productivity (AU/ha)
In other words, while the current productivity was estimated at 94 million animal units, but the total potential carrying capacity is 274–293 million animal units, indicating a substantial potential to increase productivity.Strassburg, B. B. N., et al. 2014. When enough should be enough: Improving the use of current agricultural lands could meet production demands and spare natural habitats in Brazil. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 28, 84-87. As described by Strassburg, et al. 2014, the current low productivity of Brazilian pasturelands is a result of the following:
- Low technology levels characterized by inadequate pasture management (overgrazing and lack of maintenance fertilization) leading to a widespread degradation and deficient animal management (health, nutrition and breeding) resulting in low animal performance;Strassburg, B. B. N., et al. 2014. When enough should be enough: Improving the use of current agricultural lands could meet production demands and spare natural habitats in Brazil. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 28, 84-87.
- Land speculation, where cattle ranching is a means to secure land ownership with an aim to sell it when the cropland frontier advances (in Brazil, farms that are not actively used can be expropriated for land reform, and extensive cattle ranching is among the simplest forms of demonstrating use);Strassburg, B. B. N., et al. 2014. When enough should be enough: Improving the use of current agricultural lands could meet production demands and spare natural habitats in Brazil. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 28, 84-87.
- Insecure land tenure, which discourages investments in increased productivity and incentivizes exploitation that leads to degradation;Strassburg, B. B. N., et al. 2014. When enough should be enough: Improving the use of current agricultural lands could meet production demands and spare natural habitats in Brazil. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 28, 84-87.
- Lack of long-term credit for the upfront costs of increasing productivity and lack of compliance of the properties with the environmental laws which prevents access to credit;Strassburg, B. B. N., et al. 2014. When enough should be enough: Improving the use of current agricultural lands could meet production demands and spare natural habitats in Brazil. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 28, 84-87.
- Lack of appropriate extension and training services dedicated to cattle ranch productivity.Strassburg, B. B. N., et al. 2014. When enough should be enough: Improving the use of current agricultural lands could meet production demands and spare natural habitats in Brazil. Global Environmental Change, Vol. 28, 84-87.
Pasture degradation is one of the main causes of low productivity of cattle production systems and is a driving force behind deforestation and conversion of native ecosystems. Approximately, 40% of the total areas of cultivated pastures in the CerradoPereira, O. J. R., Ferreira, L. G., Pinto, F., & Baumgarten, L. (2018). Assessing pasture degradation in the brazilian cerrado based on the analysis of modis ndvi time-series. Remote Sensing, 10(11), 1761. and more than 60% in the Amazon biomes are considered degraded.Dias-Filho, M.B., Andrade, C.M.S., 2006. Pastagens no Trópico Úmido. Documentos 241. Embrapa Amazoˆnia Oriental. In 2010, nearly 40% of the deforested land in the Amazon was either degraded pasture or abandoned areas.Embrapa and INPE, 2013. Terra Class Levantamento de informacoes de uso e cobertura da terra na Amazonia – 2010.
Moderate intensification and sustainable ranch management practices can provide potential solutions to help improve pasture and herd productivity. Efforts aimed at addressing the five underlying issues leading to low productivity (see above) can help mitigate the potential for pasture degradation and therefore reduce pressures to clear additional forests.
Moderate Intensification is achieved through the application of good management practices to improve the social, environmental, and economic performance of cattle ranching within the framework of the existing production system. Such practices may include fencing, improved mixtures of grasses, and better breeding techniques.
Low-tech and cost effective practices to improve pasture and herd management already exist. The Brazilian Corporation of Agricultural Research (Embrapa) has developed Good Agricultural Practices (known as the BPA—Boas Práticas Agropecuárias) for the cattle sector. The BPA provides ranchers with a set of guiding principles, technologies, methods, and techniques to mitigate risks and enable economically viable and environmentally sustainable cattle ranching in Brazil.Rodrigues do Valle, E. 2011. Boas Práticas Agropecuárias, Bovinos de Corte,Manual de Orientações, 2a edição revista e ampliada, EMBRAPA, BPA. In particular, rotational grazing techniques recommended for pasture improvements are being adopted in a number of countries as part of new approaches to sustainable livestock management.
Moderate intensification represents an important tool to help improve pasture and herd management, therefore improving productivity and potentially the profitability of ranching operations. Supply chain initiatives (such as the G4 Cattle Agreements) that focus on market links among ranches, meatpackers, and retailers can help support and strengthen parallel initiatives aimed at improving productivity.
The G4 Cattle Agreement represents one of the strongest mechanisms currently in place to reduce deforestation in cattle supply chains in the Brazilian Amazon. For moderate intensification to effectively reduce deforestation while avoiding potential negative externalities, it should be strategically integrated with the G4 Cattle agreement (or G4-like agreements).
Momentum Towards Zero Deforestation Cattle
Field-based programs, research projects and other initiatives are helping advance zero deforestation production systems and improving the social, economic, and ecological sustainability of cattle ranching in Brazil.
Achieving systemic supply chain solutions and ensuring fully verified zero deforestation production will require commitments and coordinated support from retailers, meatpackers, banks and investors, governments, and consumers.
Transformation of the Brazilian Cattle Sector
- Provide financial incentives and credit options that support the recovery of degraded pastures and the adoption moderate intensification practices and other land-use intensification strategies, such as crop-livestock-forest integration.
- Promote more streamlined processes for the application for and allocation of credit and other finance for sustainable ranching practices.
- Support incentives that encourage transparency, traceability and verification of supply chains.
- Preferentially purchase from retailers that have commitments and show continuous progress towards verified zero deforestation production. Check Supply-Change for news, information, and analysis on company commitments.
- Ask your favorite retailers and brands simple questions like:
- “From where do you source your beef or leather materials?”
- “Do you have a zero deforestation policy that covers cattle products?”
- Increase transparency of data regarding the transportation of cattle (Guia de Transporte Animal, or GTA) and the CAR registry. Disclosing more information on the movement of cattle will help support efforts aimed at expanding monitoring and traceability to indirect suppliers in the supply chain.
- Create policies and incentives focused on the adoption of nationwide traceability and monitoring systems, leveling the playing field in the Brazilian cattle sector.
- Accelerate CAR adoption and support a CAR verification process to improve the accuracy and reliability of information.
- Support efforts to improve technical assistance, training and education for ranchers.
- Incentivize adoption of moderate intensification practices that improve productivity on existing pastures, while reducing incentives for and discouraging expansion of agriculture into forested regions.
- Promote more streamlined processes for the application for and allocation of credit and other finance for sustainable ranching practices.
G4 Meatpackers (JBS, Marfrig, and Minerva)
- Start to address indirect suppliers. Taking action to address indirect suppliers will help close some of the current gaps in monitoring, reduce risks, and help ensure fully verified zero deforestation supply chains.
- Increase the transparency of transaction information. Disclosing more information on the ranches which supply cattle to the meatpackers will help identify potential gaps in monitoring, further reduce potential risk exposure, and provide valuable support for efforts aimed at expanding monitoring to indirect suppliers.
Other meatpackers (non-G4) in the Brazilian Amazon and elsewhere in the tropics
- Commit to zero deforestation, use monitoring systems to exclude purchases from ranches with deforestation, track cattle between supplying ranches, and increase the transparency of transaction information.
- Incentivize support for verified zero deforestation beef, leather, tallow, and other cattle-derived products.
- Preferentially source from meatpackers who: (1) have made commitments to zero deforestation production, (2) use monitoring and tracking systems to ensure fully verified zero deforestation production, (3) increase the transparency of their transaction information with supplying ranches, and (4) publically disclose their performance through third-party independent audits.
- Participate in the GRSB-GTPS Joint Working Group on Forests (JWG) to build collaborative solutions with other supply chain actors and to scale up verified zero deforestation beef, leather, tallow, and other cattle-derived products.
- Avoid clearing remaining tracts of forest.
- Adopt moderate intensification practices (such as rotational grazing, fences, and grass mixtures) to improve productivity on existing pastures.
- Work towards legal compliance, including CAR registration and Legal Reserve (LR) minimums.
- Utilize market-based mechanisms (such as CRA and REDD+) to compensate and/or restore cleared areas.
Further Readings:Novo Campo Program: Practicing Sustainable Cattle Ranching in the Amazon Subsidies for a Cattle Ranching Intensification Subprogram in Acre: A State Analysis Imazon International Institute for Sustainability (IIS)
Novo Campo Program: Practicing Sustainable Cattle Ranching in the AmazonClose
The Novo Campo Program is implemented by a consortium of partners, including the Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV), Embrapa, the International Institute for Sustainability (IIS), Solidaridad, Imaflora, JBS, and local producer unions in two municipalities of Mato Grosso state – Alta Floresta and Cotriguaçu. The program is composed of six main components, including: (1) engaging ranchers, (2) training technical assistance professionals, (3) buyers providing premiums for the products, (4) financing for investments in better practices, (5) monitoring and tracking the supply chain and (6) integrating with territorial sustainable development policies. Since 2012, ICV has been working to demonstrate the viability of this approach. With measurable benefits for participants, the Novo Campo Program has continued to grow, and aims to reach 200–300 producers in the next several years.
Links to additional resources:
Subsidies for a Cattle Ranching Intensification Subprogram in Acre: A State AnalysisClose
The main objective of this technical report is to provide background information for Acre’s Incentive Program for Environmental Services (SISA) concerning the cattle ranching intensification subprogram. Here, we present a variety of cattle ranching intensification scenarios using different herd expansion rates, percentages of pasture area to be intensified and economic data to demonstrate the difference in income from these scenarios. This analysis uses the rate of increase in herd projections from the federal government, as well as a more ambitious projection. The scenarios also consider four different intensification scenarios that would allow herd expansion, without incurring in new deforestation. These data are used in conjunction with economic data (production cost, beef price scenarios and income) to analyze the overall income of cattle ranching in Acre from 2010 to 2021. While intensification can be profitable, it must be linked to public policies and access to credit, so that the increase in income does not become a threat, possibly causing new deforestation.
Intensive Cattle Ranching: A New Model for Production in the Amazon
This video presents the work done in partnership with Acre. The video shows two cases of success in Acre, as well as some of the bottlenecks for intensification. The video also shows that intensification is beneficial from an economic and environmental standpoint.
Links to additional resources:
How can one develop the rural economy without deforesting the Amazon?
The cattle ranching average productivity in the Amazon is 3.7 times lower than the potential. How to improve that? Check out our analysis.
It is possible to combat deforestation of the Amazon and promote the growth of the rural economy in the region. That tendency has been occurring since 2007 and may become consolidated over the next few years. The critical factor in increasing production without deforesting is to increase productivity, especially for ranching, the main use made of deforested areas. We estimate that it would be possible to supply the increased demand for beef projected up to 2022 by increasing productivity by around only 24% of pasture with agronomic potential for intensification existing in 2007. Thus, it would be possible without deforestation to increase the value of agricultural ranching production by around $4 billion by 2022, a 16% increase in the value of agriculture and ranching in 2010. In order for agricultural and ranching production to grow only in already deforested areas the public sector needs to correct failings in policies that discourage investment in those areas and others that encourage deforestation.
Increased productivity and profitability of cattle ranching in the Amazon: the Green Cattle Ranching Project in Paragominas
The Brazilian cattle ranching sector has been under pressure to adopt more modern standards of environmental, health and economic performance. These pressures have resulted in initiatives to improve the performance of ranching systems, which typically have low productivity. One such initiative is the Green Cattle Ranching Project led by the Farmers’ Union of Paragominas in eastern Pará. Producers participating in the project managed to increase productivity by about four times compared to the typical ranches. This paper summarizes the measures to facilitate investment in more sustainable practices and to strengthen the fight against illegal deforestation.
Link to the full report (only available in Portuguese)
Links to additional resources:
International Institute for Sustainability (IIS)Close
Economic Analysis of more Sustainable Cattle Ranching
The expansion of cattle ranching in the Amazon has come under pressure for environmental adaptation and improvement in socio-economic performance. Low implementation of best practices in the field and the lack of robust analyses of production and financial performance are hindering investments in productivity and sustainable management. In addition, there is a lack of targeted rural credit for intensification practices. This study evaluated the impact of intensification from a financial perspective, measuring risks and the role of rural credit in leveraging the adoption of best practices, among other benefits resulting from the intensification of cattle ranching.
Traditionally, cattle ranching has been environmentally and economically inefficient. Currently, cattle ranching occupies 75% of the deforested area in the Amazon and contributes about 40% of CO2 emissions in Brazil, but generated less than 3% of GDP in the last decade. Some producers are already investing in improving productivity. However, isolated investments are insufficient to transform the cattle sector on a regional scale.
The results of the model developed in this study demonstrate that intensification increases Net Present Value (NPV) up to $1,940 per hectare (compared to $463/ha from business as usual cattle ranching), and substantially reduces the risk of losses, from 99% to 15%. These results confirm the economic viability of productive activity and increased competitiveness with other land uses. In addition to the positive impacts on natural resources, there is also the potential to increase production and income without the need for further deforestation.
Link to the full report (only available in Portuguese)
Contributions to the Development of Large-scale Sustainable Cattle Ranching in the Micro-region of Alta Floresta, Mato Grosso
The Brazilian cattle industry uses on average only 30% of the sustainable productivity potential of pastures. This means that it is possible to maintain or even increase the volume of production without opening new pasture areas. This process, however, needs to be analyzed in models that consider bio-economic factors. The micro-region of Alta Floresta, Mato Grosso, sets an extremely favorable context for increasing livestock and soybean yields, without the need to clear a single hectare of forest. In this sense, this report presents the fundamental analyses for the sustainable development of the micro-region of Alta Floresta, through an integrated land use approach.
The projection of the current production scenario (business as usual) results in an estimated 200,000 hectares of planted soybean area in the micro-region in 2030, and an increase of approximately 23% in the cattle herd in the region. Such agricultural expansion would result in the deforestation of 446,000 new hectares in the region. On the other hand, a zero deforestation scenario would require the intensification of 300,000 hectares (less than the current cleared area in the region). This effort would require a total investment of approximately $740 million in the next 15 years. Spread evenly across the next fifteen years, the annual cost of implementing intensification practices would reach a value that is 40% higher than the current capacity to obtain credit for livestock in the region. However, over the last ten years, credit for livestock in Alta Floresta has increase at a pace that if maintained, would be just enough to cover these costs over this period.
The cost of transitioning to more sustainable livestock production could be covered by REDD+ programs. The structuring of a State Program for REDD+, through the implementation of the State Law No. 9878/2013, can contribute to the creation of financial mechanisms for this transition. The estimated amount to cover the increased cost is US$1.50/ t CO2e. The actions and programs of the Amazon Fund (which provides the fixed value of US$5.00/ t CO2e) could also finance complementary policies, technical assistance and control of deforestation. A transition to a more sustainable scenario could mitigate 203 million tons of CO2 emissions.
Link to the full report (only available in Portuguese)
Links to additional resources:
This website was developed as a collaborative project between the National Wildlife Federation (NWF) and the Gibbs Land Use and Environment Lab (GLUE). The site aims to showcase how supply chain initiatives are supporting effective solutions for verified zero deforestation beef and leather production in the Brazilian Amazon. The site also highlights ways for supply chain actors to support continuous improvement and ensure that cattle products sourced from this region do not contribute to the loss of tropical forests. This website is intended to be a resource for procurement and sustainability professionals and will continue to evolve as new research, data, and analysis becomes available.
For questions or comments, please contact: ZeroDeforestation@nwf.org
The National Wildlife Federation is the oldest and largest wildlife conservation and education organization in the United States, with nearly 6 million members and supporters and 49 state and territorial affiliates. The international division of NWF (International Wildlife Conservation), develops strategies to reduce the environmental impacts associated with large-scale agriculture, to help ensure that commodity production can meet the world’s needs without destroying forests or jeopardizing wildlife habitat.
The Gibbs Land Use and Environment Lab (GLUE) at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is an academic research group dedicated to studying human-environment interactions. The researchers use maps, remote sensing, modeling, and commodity supply chain analysis combined with stakeholder interviews to understand how and why humans use land around the world. They are especially engaged in understanding the potential of emerging market-based solutions to reduce tropical deforestation, and work closely with policymakers, business leaders and non-governmental organizations.