Environmental study reveals the carbon footprint of JBS meat processing to be larger than all of Italy. 

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JBS, the world’s largest meatpacking company, increased its carbon emissions by 51% in the past five years, according to a new environmental study conducted by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) with non-profit organisation Mighty Earth. 

The research estimated that the Brazilian meat giant increased its annual emissions from 280mn metric tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2016 to 421.6mn metric tonnes in 2021, which is equivalent to the total carbon emissions of the UK and larger than the whole of Italy

The report attributed the sharp rise to the company’s increase of numbers of animals it killed and processed, including 26.8mn cattle, 46.7mn pigs and 4.9bn chickens. 

JBS refuted the accuracy of the data, claiming that the report was using “flawed methodology and grossly extrapolated data to make misleading claims”, including the use of its processing capacity to estimate the firm’s emissions. But JBS failed to provide its own official figures on emissions in 2021. 

Often criticised for its links to illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest and raising cattle on deforested land, as well as for its significant use of soy in its animal feed in cattle feedlots, poultry, and swine farms, the meatpacking company has been attempting to shed its reputation in recent years by putting forward a number of environmental goals. This includes setting a target to reach net-zero emission by 2040. 

But according to the report, JBS’ net zero plan is “heavy on rhetoric and light on detail, conveniently ignoring the company’s principal source of emissions: the increasing number of animals in its global supply chain.” The meat packer also failed to address emissions from farms and feedlots that are not owned by the company but are part of its supply chain, which represent up to 97% of the company’s footprint

In response, the company reiterated that “attainment of our ambitious net zero target is our number one priority …We have been transparent about the timelines required to do this,”  adding that they have been working to improve emissions disclosure to meet best practice international standards. 

The agricultural and food sectors accounted for 31% of global greenhouse gas emission, including methane, in 2019.  In order to limit global warming and to achieve global net zero emission by 2030, the global food industry needs to drastically reduce its emissions and footprint.

Featured image by: Piqsels