International Workshop on Solutions to Deforestation and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Caused by Cattle Expansion

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The International Workshop on Solutions to Deforestation and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Caused by Cattle Expansion was held in Sao Paulo, Brazil, on 26-27 August 2009, with international and Brazilian co-hosts including the National Wildlife Federation, Amigos da Terra-Amazonia Brasileira, Alianca da terra, Greenpeace, IMAZON, and Forest Footprint Disclosure in collaboration with Embrapa and the Sao Paulo State Forum on Climate Change and Biodiversity. This workshop brought together for the first time, stakeholders from every link in the meat and leather supply chain in Brazil, from ranchers to meatpackers and retailers, in addition to representatives from state and national government, academics, and national and international conservation NGOs.

LOCATION: São Paulo, Brazil

DATE: 26-27 August 2009

FIELD TRIP: Field trip to visit model "semi-intensified" cattle ranches and forest frontier in Acre State 24-25 August 2009



Challenges Addressed

  • Brazil has the world’s largest commercial cattle herd, is the no.1 exporter of beef and a leading exporter of leather. In the framework of a global discussion about solutions to cattle-induced greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, this meeting focused on the Brazilian Amazon, with multi-stakeholder participation, including producers, the meat-packing and leather industries, the financial sector, retailers, academia and research, governments and civil society organizations. The aim of the meeting was to detail an operational agenda about four concrete challenges:
80% of new deforestation in Brazil is for cattle ranching [1].
  • Technological Challenge: How to increase productivity in existing cattle areas.
  • Policy Challenge: How to ensure higher productivity does not simply lead to further expansion of cattle in the region but instead leads to net reductions in deforestation and land devoted to pasture.
  • Financial Challenge: How to redirect the substantial amount of existing credit to the above goals.
  • Markets Challenge: How to adopt positive procurement policies, including implementation of the upcoming Brazilian System for Certification of Agriculture and Livestock.

Proposed Actions and Solutions

  • Expert observers believe that with concerted action it is possible to promote both the rehabilitation of degraded land and effective enforcement of measures to protect forests. For example, advocates are calling for the prohibition of finance for cattle operations in newly deforested regions, requiring meat processing facilities to disclose their suppliers and a ban on the opening of new plants in forested regions. Tools exist for the transition to a sustainable livestock industry, including improved pasture management. Financing for these changes can be diverted from cattle expansion. The resulting restructured value chain for meat and other products of cattle ranching, would be in line with announced national policies on climate change and reduced deforestation, as well as more acceptable in international markets.

Meeting Aims and Activities

Aerial view of deforestation in Acre state in the Brazilian Amazon.
  • At this Workshop, stakeholders simultaneously addressed legitimate concerns about the economic viability of ranching operations, as well as growing demands in Brazil and global markets for mechanisms to ensure that beef is not being produced in areas of illegal deforestation, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and other socio-environmental problems.
  • The Workshop aimed to present and discuss workable solutions and forge a dialogue between actors in all stages of the supply chain.

Workshop Outcomes

Co-host panel at the opening to the Cattle Workshop.

On August 24th-25th, 2009, a group of diverse stakeholders participated in a cattle ranch and forest frontier visit to Acre State, which provided on-the-ground perspective on how 'semi-intensification' standards can be successfully implemented to reduce demand for deforestation. On the field excursion, stakeholders also visited the Embrapa Acre Forest Reserve to learn strategies for the sustainable extraction of non-timber forest products. Over one hundred stakeholders met on August 26th-27th, 2009 at the World Trade Center in São Paulo, SP, Brazil for a day and a half of presentations, expert panels, discussions and working groups to address the technical, financial and market challenges to solutions to deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) caused by cattle expansion.

This workshop brought together for the first time, stakeholders from every link in the meat and leather supply chain, from ranchers to meatpackers and retailers, as well as representatives from state and national Brazilian government, academia, and national and international NGOs. The first morning began with presentations showing that the cattle industry is responsible for around three quarters of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon and over 40% of the country’s GHG emissions, yet contributes less than 5% of the national GDP.

It became apparent at the Workshop that there is broad acceptance that this industry poses a grave environmental threat, that changes are crucial, and that there is wide recognition of the common responsibility to implement changes. For the first time ever, there was agreement on essential building blocks towards an environmentally and socially responsible cattle industry that involves:

  • zero deforestation;
  • the development and implementation of intensification standards to greatly reduce the land requirements per head of cattle; and
  • a system of traceability and smart and sustainable financing.

The meeting concluded with a commitment among producers, processors, retailers, financiers, NGOs and government to continue to work together with all actors in order to develop and implement effective solutions.

Workshop Media Coverage

Former Brazilian Minister of Agriculture Roberto Rodrigues is interviewed for a Sao Paulo TV network after delivering an address at the Cattle Workshop.
  • Activists target Brazil's largest driver of deforestation: cattle ranching, 8 September 2009 by Rhett A. Butler, Interview with Workshop co-host Roberto Smeraldi of Amigos da Terra examines proposed solutions to deforestation for cattle expansion in Brazil. From
    • "Perhaps unexpectedly for a group with roots in confrontational activism, Amigos da Terra is calling for a rather pragmatic approach to address to the "cattle crisis". The solution, says Roberto Smeraldi, founder and director of Amigos da Terra, involves improving the productivity of cattle ranching, thereby allowing forest to recover without sacrificing jobs or income; establishing a moratorium on new clearing; and recognizing the economic values of maintaining the ecological functions of Earth's largest rainforest."
    • "While the transition will be challenging, Smeraldi believes it offers new opportunities for Brazil to pursue a sustainable development path. For example, Smeraldi notes that cattle ranching presently accounts for roughly a third of Brazil's greenhouse gas emissions while generating only about 1 percent of national GDP."
    • "This is a big opportunity for a cost-efficient carbon strategy, which is in the best interest of Brazil and the whole world," he told during an interview conducted shortly after a National Wildlife Federation-sponsored meeting on cattle certification in Brazil." [2]

Real-time Updates

Visit the Twitter page NWF_BrazilTweet for real-time tweets on the progress of the workshop and updates from the Amazon field trip.

Most recent related tweets: (some characters may not render properly)

Related Documents

Flickr images from the events

Embrapa Acre Forest Reserve & Model Cattle Ranches

More photos coming soon! Click thumbnail for larger image view.

Workshop in Sao Paulo

More photos coming soon! Click thumbnail for larger image view.

Related External News & Publications

Cattle on a 'semi-intensification' model ranch in Acre state.


  • Deforestation-free leather comes closer to reality in the Brazilian Amazon, 3 May 2010 by "Prominent leather buyers have developed a new traceability system to ensure that leather products from Brazil don't result in deforestation, reports the National Wildlife Federation, an NGO working to improve the environmental performance of the cattle industry in the Amazon."
    • "Under the terms of the protocol, meat packers must certify that all their direct suppliers have registered their farms — providing GPS coordinates of their holdings — by November 2010. Packers who fail to meet the criteria will be unable to sell leather to members of the Leather Working Group."
    • "Improving the traceability of beef and leather is significant because cattle ranching is the single largest driver of Amazon destruction: 80 percent of deforested land ends up as cattle pasture. Ranching is also Brazil's largest source of greenhouse gas emissions."[3]
  • Forest Footprint Disclosure Annual Review (PDF file) - This February 2010 Forest Footprint Disclosure report makes available the results of its 2009 company disclosure request. The report "reveals the names of those businesses that have responded to its first call to disclose details of their ‘Forest Footprint’," defined as "the extent to which procurement policies for Forest Risk Commodities (FRCs) such as palm oil, soy, timber, beef, leather and biofuels are linked to deforestation. The Report identifies two high profile British High Street names as ‘Best Performers’ in their sectors – Marks & Spencer (General Retail) and Sainsbury’s (Food and Drug Retail)." [4] (PDF file)


  • Giants in Cattle Industry Agree to Help Fight Deforestation, 6 October 2009 by The New York Times: "At a conference...organized by Greenpeace, the four cattle companies — Bertin, JBS-Friboi, Marfrig and Minerva — agreed to support Greenpeace’s call for an end to the deforestation."
    • "Blairo Maggi, the governor of Mato Grosso, the Brazilian state with the highest rate of deforestation in the Amazon and the country’s largest cattle herd, said Monday that he would support efforts to protect the Amazon and provide high-resolution satellite imagery to help monitor the region."
    • "Conspicuously missing from Monday’s announcement was the government of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil. The government is struggling to reconcile its social and development goals in the Amazon with its desire to be a major player in global climate change talks."
  • JBS agrees to protect Amazon forest 28 September 2009 by Northern Colorado Business Report: JBS, the world's largest beef company, "has agreed to make a commitment to Greenpeace to not buy products from protected areas in the Amazon region" it will "abide by practices that 'eliminate deforestation' in the Amazon biome." [5]
  • Concerns over deforestation may drive new approach to cattle ranching in the Amazon, 10 August 2009 by Rhett Butler in "...pressure to reduce new forest clearing could spur intensification—producing more cattle on less land—which could have mixed environmental impacts. Improved pasture management could dramatically boost the productivity of Amazon cattle ranching, which is currently highly 'extensive' with an average of only one cow per two-and-a-half acres. Embrapa, the agricultural ministry's research institute, estimates that productivity could be nearly doubled by rehabilitating degraded pastureland." [6]
  • Progress on Amazonian Deforestation and Land Reform, 8 September 2009 by Kaleigh Robinson of the World Resources Institute: "President Lula’s targeted vetoes to controversial but landmark legislation mark significant progress towards protecting the Amazon forest....Provisory Measure 458 will privatize 67.4 million hectares of public land—an area about the size of France—currently occupied illegally in the Brazilian Amazon. Under the new bill, those unlawfully occupying lands of up to 1,500 hectares could receive legal title to such property if they meet certain conditions, including having peacefully obtained the land and keeping it in productive use."
    • "'Land regularisation is of fundamental importance for halting deforestation'...As Brazil presently lacks the resources to prevent illegal logging on much of the publicly-owned land covered by the measure, supporters of the legislation argue that the bill will decrease deforestation because legally owned, titled land will be better managed than commonly owned areas, and because all private landholders must comply with another Brazilian law requiring them to maintain 80% of their land forested." [7]
  • Amazon land law debate heats up, 7 September 2009 by Paulo Cabral of BBC Brazil: "critics of the [new] land ownership bill fear that giving rights to people who have illegally occupied public land for many years already could encourage new occupations....'People will come to the region to occupy public land trusting that in the future there will be another amnesty that will legalise everything,' says Paulo Barreto, a senior researcher for the Amazon Institute for Mankind and the Environment (Imazon)."
    • See article for summary of the main points of the new Brazilian land bill.[8]
  • Beef Producers in Amazon Declare Moratorium, 28 August 2009 by VOA News: "Major beef and leather producers in Brazil have agreed not to use cattle raised in recently deforested areas of the Amazon rainforest."
    • "The governor of the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso has called on meat producers not to buy cattle raised on recently deforested lands in the Amazonian state. Now, two major beef producers in Brazil, Bertin and Marfrig, have announced they are joining the initiative. Shoe makers Nike and Timberland signed on earlier this month."
    • "The Brazilian government and independent third-party observers will enforce the moratorium using satellite photographs, aerial fly-overs, and site visits. The meat processors have agreed not to buy cattle from those responsible for newly deforested lands."
    • "Brazil is already using this system to monitor soybean production. The country is a major soy producer, and since 2006 a coalition representing soybean growers, processors, and civil society groups has been cooperating on a moratorium on soy from recently deforested Amazon land."[9]
  • JBS, Walmart sign agreement for Brazil, 26 August 2009 by Meat International: "JBS S.A. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. have signed an agreement in which JBS will produce beef for Walmart stores in Brazil and Walmart will market the products, with both companies adhering to responsible, sustainable practices".
    • "[B]oth parties pledged to guarantee that beef will not be sourced from properties within the Amazon Biome that have been 'blacklisted' by the Brazilian Environment Institute or from ranchers who have exploited child or 'slave-like' labor."[10]
Stakeholders learn about sustainable forest management from Embrapa Acre staff on a field trip to Acre state.
  • Brazil Meatpacker Bertin Will Fight Amazon Forest Destruction 13 August 2009 by "Bertin SA, Brazil’s second-largest beef producer...which slaughters 12,000 head of cattle a day, will use satellites to monitor logging around ranches, Fernando Falco, vice president of Sao Paulo-based Bertin, said today in an interview."
    • "Carrefour SA, Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Cia. Brasileira de Distribuicao Grupo Pao de Acucar in June suspended buying beef from areas of the Brazilian Amazon affected by deforestation. Nike Inc. will boycott leather from Brazil’s Amazon region, the largest athletic shoemaker said July 22."
    • "Companies and individuals have destroyed more than 857,000 square kilometers (331,000 square miles) of the Amazon to date, an area almost the size of France and England combined, according to the United Nations Environment Programme. Cattle ranchers have caused 80 percent of illegal deforestation, according to Brazil’s environment ministry." [12]
  • Controlling the Ranching Boom That Threatens the Amazon 10 August 2009 by Rhett Butler in YALE Environment 360: "Clearing land for cattle is responsible for 80 percent of rainforest loss in the Brazilian Amazon. But with Amazon ranching now a multi-billion dollar business, corporate buyers of beef and leather, including Wal-Mart, are starting to demand that the destruction of the forest be halted."[13]
    • International Workshop on Solutions to Deforestation and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Caused by Cattle Expansion co-host Alianca da Tera is praised by Butler for divising "a unique approach to promoting land stewardship in the Amazon, one that could eventually be applied to commodity products".[14]


  • Amazonia Drying, August 2006 by National Wildlife Magazine: "A number of forces - some old, some new - are combining to [increase deforestation]. Large-scale cattle ranching, which first took off in the 1960s, is spreading faster than ever....Commercial logging of high-value timber is also booming."
    • "According to biologist Daniel Nepstad of the Woods Hole Research Center and Brazil’s Instituto de Pesquisa Ambiental da Amazonia, the forces driving deforestation have shifted since...20 years ago. Back then, 'you could point a finger at bad government policies or land-grabbing speculators,' he says. 'Now it also has to do with globalization, changes in international commodity markets that ripple down to the behavior of individual farmers and ranchers.'...Nepstad and his colleagues predict that if current trends in cattle ranching and soybean production continue, 40 percent of the Amazon forest will be gone by 2050."[15]

Workshops edit
International Workshop on Solutions to Deforestation and Greenhouse Gas Emissions Caused by Cattle Expansion
International Workshop on Sustainable Bioenergy from Algae
Joint International Workshop on High Nature Value Criteria and Potential for Sustainable Use of Degraded Lands
2nd Joint International Workshop on Bioenergy, Biodiversity Mapping and Degraded Lands
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