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New study outlines the link between Brazilian beef exports and deforestation

02 December 2020

Researchers have outlined the link between Brazil's beef industry and deforestation by examining slaughterhouse export licenses, customs records, and slaughterhouse cattle origins for more than 3,000 companies who handl Brazil’s beef trade.

A new paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has mapped the origin and supply chain of Brazil’s beef exports between 2015 and 2017. The researchers found that beef exports originated from all regions in Brazil, including areas with high rates of deforestation for cattle ranching. The paper also found that China was the largest buyer of Brazil's beef exports, including exports that were linked to deforestation.  


The study authors provide an exhaustive map of the origin and supply chain of Brazilian meat, offal and live cattle exports, along with the environmental footprint. By combining official per-shipment trade records, slaughterhouse export licenses, subnational agricultural statistics, and data on the origin of cattle per slaughterhouse, the researchers mapped the flow of cattle from more than 2,800 municipalities where cattle were raised to 152 exporting slaughterhouses where they were slaughtered, via the 204 exporting and 3,383 importing companies handling that trade, and finally to 152 importing countries.

The study found significant differences in the sourcing of different actors and their safeguards against deforestation. To illustrate these differences, the researchers linked the supply chain information to spatially explicit data on cattle-associated deforestation. The data allowed the researchers to estimate the deforestation risk" (in hectares/year) of each supply chain actor over time. The results provide an unprecedented insight into the global trade of a deforestation-risk commodity and demonstrate the potential for improved supply chain transparency based on currently available data.

Read the full paper on the PNAS website


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