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ago 07, 2017

Brazil’s ‘green meat’ initiatives are changing the global market

In recent years, meat producers have shied away from Brazil’s prestigious conservation locations like the Amazon and Pantanal. But now, you might be about to find Amazonian meat on a supermarket shelf near you – and it might be more environmentally-friendly than meat from other parts of the world.

After three years of planning, Walmart is about to launch a line of beef cuts produced exclusively in the Amazon, under the banner ‘Xingu Herd’. The supermarket behemoth has invested heavily in Brazil over the last few years, researching how herds can coexist with environmental preservation areas and building a 75,000-strong network of cattle farms. According to the firms involved, prices will remain competitive while the meat’s taste will be far superior to mass-produced meats.

The ‘Xingu Herd’ line is named after Walmart’s largest cattle herd in the country, with 2.3 million animals, and is produced in partnership with NGO The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and meatpacker Marfrig Global Foods group. “We want to show Walmart throughout the world that beef bought in Brazil does not contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon biome,” Luiz Herrisson, Walmart’s sustainability director, told the Brazilian press.

Walmart’s project alone will span 300 farms across 410 million hectares in the Amazon biome, in addition to part of the Cerrado biome. But it’s not the only giant with its eyes on meat explicitly produced in Brazil’s conservation areas. Supermarket Carrefour is working in the Pampa biome, while organic brand Korin has placed itself in the Pantanal. McDonald’s, meanwhile, could be one of the biggest clients: the fast food chain has committed to buying 250 million tonnes of meat sustainably produced in the Amazon region.

Firms are ensuring that external control methods will be employed for meat production. Walmart will monitor farming by satellite as well as with TNC, while Carrefour will be working directly with 22 farms to keep tabs on production practices. McDonald’s meat will be processed by Brazilian meatpacker JBS, under the watchful eye of non-profit Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV).

Francisco Beduschi Neto, coordinator of the ICV's Sustainable Livestock Initiative, told UOL that he believes the move is a practical one. “By producing such a solution, it is possible to improve the income of the producer, who does not need to deforest more to increase its production, conserve the environment and meet the demands of the market,” he said.

But in addition to help from NGOs, firms and meatpackers involved will also be using geospatial analysis to monitor farms. Farmers and producers will be answerable to Brazil’s federal government, too. The Ministry of Labor will be on the lookout for evidence of slave labor, while the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (Ibama) will be keeping tabs on illegal deforestation.

This bodes well for international markets as well as the domestic Brazilian market. Using technology to trace supply chains means that meat produced in the Amazon has already found its way to British supermarket chain Tesco’s shelves. With checks and balances in the right places, ‘green meat’ from Brazil’s most pristine environments could soon become a worldwide phenomenon.