Real Leaders

This is Where Your Beef Burger Comes From

Cattle ranch in Agua Boa, Mato Grosso, Brazil, August 8, 2008. Daniel Beltra/Greenpeace

Brazilian ranchers traditionally clear land to raise animals in large pasture areas. When using feedlots to fatten animals before slaughter, farmers do in 90 days what would take them a year in natural pastures.

Brazil is the world’s largest beef exporter, exporting one-fifth of its total production, and the sector is a major driver of deforestation.

Extensive cattle ranching is the number one culprit of deforestation in virtually every Amazon country, and it accounts for 80% of current deforestation (Nepstad et al. 2008). Alone, the deforestation caused by cattle ranching is responsible for the release of 340 million tons of carbon to the atmosphere every year, equivalent to 3.4% of current global emissions. Beyond forest conversion, cattle pastures increase the risk of fire and are a significant degrader of riparian and aquatic ecosystems, causing soil erosion, river siltation and contamination with organic matter. Trends indicate that livestock production is expanding in the Amazon.

Brazil has 88% of the Amazon herd, followed by Peru and Bolivia. While grazing densities vary among livestock production systems and countries, extensive, low productivity, systems with less thanone animal unit per hectare of pasture are the dominant form of cattle ranching in the Amazon.

Photo: Peter Beltra  / courtesy of Global Population Speak Out.

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