Is Brazilian beef still the best

Tropical steaks at the expense of the climate

In addition, the growing meat industry has a huge ecological footprint in its hunger for more and more acreage for animal feed. Deforestation and soil degradation in the Amazon region have already led to large-scale climatic changes that have manifested themselves in the current droughts. Their negative consequences, in turn, also had an impact on large, distant cities such as São Paulo. "If desertification as a result of cattle grazing in the Amazon continues to the current extent, the so-called 'Flying Rivers Amazonia', which carry rain to the south of the continent, will dry up in the future - and the lack of water then harbors social explosives," warns Washington and Berlin-based non-governmental organization (NGO) IATP.

President Bolsonaro does not contest this. Instead, he recently referred to environmental groups as a "cancer" that he would like to eradicate. The reason for the outbreak of anger is the campaign. With it, environmental groups are calling on potential investors to make their involvement in Brazil dependent on the state's obligation to protect the Amazon rainforest. The NGOs had nothing to say to him, Bolsonaro railed on Facebook, the "bastards" wrongly accused him of "setting the Amazon on fire".

Bolsonaro had previously called reports of fires in the Amazon region a lie. But the satellite images of the national institute for space research INPE (Instituto Nacional de Pesquisas Espaciais) show that over 29,000 fires were blazing in the Amazon region in August alone. According to INPE, more than twice as much was cut down in the first quarter of 2020 than in the same period of the previous year - around 1,200 square kilometers. In the Corona crisis, Jair Bolsonaro also massively reduced the number of environmental officers who are responsible for the controls, thus further opening the door to illegal loggers and looters.

Even the trade is going too far

A current INPE study also shows that the climate impacts of the Amazon deforestation are far greater than previously assumed. So far, the edge areas between slash-and-burn areas and primeval forest areas have not been taken into account in the calculation of CO2 emissions. The microclimate changes in these forest edges: they are exposed to more winds and solar radiation, which leads to an increase in temperature and a decrease in humidity in the forest. This process accelerates tree mortality, which reduces the overall ability to store carbon. According to INPE measurements, deforestation in the Amazon region was responsible for a loss of 2.6 billion tons of carbon between 2001 and 2015. In addition, there is an additional loss of 947 million tons due to the marginal effect calculated for the first time.

In the meantime there is resistance in the European food trade. Triggered by a law introduced by Bolsonaro last December that was supposed to legalize illegal logging and unlawful occupation of public land before 2018. This June, British supermarket chains initially threatened to take Brazilian products off their shelves if the law was passed, encouraging "further land grabbing" in the Amazon. While international protests have so far left Bolsonaro cold, the economic pressure seemed to be working: One day after the boycott threat, the Brazilian Congress removed the proposed law from the agenda.

A few days later, Germany's largest grocer followed the British example. In a joint declaration, they called for a stop to deforestation and the destruction of native vegetation. The letter signed by Metro AG in addition to Aldi-Nord, Aldi-Süd, EDEKA, Kaufland, Lidl, Netto Marken-Discount, however, was only addressed to the Brazilian soy traders in the Cerrado savannah.

"The planting of cattle pastures is the engine of the clearing of the jungle in Brazil", emphasizes Klaus Schenk from Rettet den Regenwald eV "Beef from Brazil is not a top hit, but an indictment. That is cynical, irresponsible and further fuels the deforestation and fires ", so the forest and energy officer of the association.

When asked about the origin of the meat on offer, the pricing and the ethical justification of the sale of Brazilian beef, Metro AG gave a detailed but vague answer shortly before the editorial deadline. "Metro has been actively working on sustainability issues and environmental protection for 20 years," writes the company. One of his principles is to only sell products "that meet the highest standards of quality and safety". In addition, it is currently working with its meat suppliers to "exclude deforestation from our supply chain. We are currently working on a corresponding purchasing policy for meat, which is to be published later this year."