Six European supermarket chains, including two owned by Dutch firm Ahold Delhaize and a Carrefour subsidiary, said they would stop selling some or all beef products from Brazil due to links with destruction of the Amazon rainforest.
The pledges ranged from supermarket chain Lidl Netherlands, which committed to stop selling all beef originating in South America starting in 2022, to more focused decisions to halt sales of certain corned beef or beef jerky products.
The move comes following a new investigation by Repórter Brasil in partnership with Mighty Earth that tracked deforestation-linked beef to European retail store shelves.
“This is a watershed moment because several huge supermarkets across Europe are saying an emphatic ‘No!’ to Brazilian beef over deforestation concerns,” said Mighty Earth Europe Director Nico Muzi.
“This is not a vague commitment or a nice announcement that looks good in a press release. These are a series of concrete commercial actions taken by some of the biggest supermarkets in Europe to stop buying and selling beef from a company and a country that have made too many promises and have delivered too few results.”
Many of the products affected are linked to the world's largest meatpacker, JBS SA.
The investigation alleges JBS indirectly sourced cows from illegally deforested areas, in a scheme known as 'cattle laundering.'
This occurs when cattle raised on an illegally deforested plot of land are sold to a legitimate farm before sale to a slaughterhouse, to hide its origin.
Zero Tolerance For Illegal Deforestation
JBS told Reuters it has zero tolerance for illegal deforestation and has blocked more than 14,000 suppliers for failing to comply with its policies.
The company said monitoring indirect suppliers - the ones before the final seller to the slaughterhouse - is a challenge for the entire sector, but that JBS will institute a system capable of doing so by 2025.
The Brazilian meatpacker said that Reporter Brasil's research mentioned only five out of 77,000 direct JBS suppliers and that those suppliers met the company's policies at the time of purchase.
Deforestation hit a 15-year high in 2021 with an area larger than the US state of Connecticut being cleared.
Most of the denuded land is used for cattle ranching.
No Beef From Brazil
Among other commitments, Ahold Delhaize's subsidiary Albert Heijn, the largest supermarket chain in the Netherlands, will stop sourcing beef from Brazil entirely.
An Albert Heijn spokesperson told Reuters that the company currently sells only a handful of corned beef and beef jerky with Brazilian origins each week.
JBS and Jack Link's have a joint venture that produces jerky. Jack Link's did not respond to a request for comment.
J Sainsbury Plc's Sainsbury's UK will stop sourcing its store brand corned beef from Brazil, but said that 90% of its beef is already sourced from the Britain and Ireland.