Tesco has been accused of fuelling the destruction of the Amazon rainforest by selling beef from cattle reared on land stolen from the jungle. During a two-year investigation, Greenpeace found that canned beef from cows on illegally deforested pasture had found its way on to the shelves of the UK's biggest supermarket chain.
Last night Tesco said it had dropped the supplier responsible. In 2009 the four largest beef and leather companies in Brazil – JBS/Friboi, Bertin, Minerva and Marfrig – signed a commitment to stop buying beef from deforested land, but the Greenpeace report, suggests that the biggest producer, JBS, which supplies Tesco, has broken its undertaking. Investigators from the environmental group traced the beef to outlets of leading supermarkets in Europe.
According to Greenpeace, cattle from 12 farms in Mata Groso state, 10 inside the protected Maraiwatsede Indigenous Reserve and two accused of illegal deforestation by Brazil's environmental agency IBAMA, were supplied to JBS's slaughterhouse in the city of Barra do Garcas, in Mato Grosso.
The beef was then shipped to southern and central Brazil for processing and canning. Greenpeace's report, "JBS Scorecard: How the biggest meat company on the planet is still slaughtering the Amazon", said this "tainted chain of custody" entered the supply chain of supermarkets in the Netherlands and Tesco in the UK. Investigators checked the shelves of 300 Tesco stores in February and found almost all were selling JBS products including corned beef, tinned mince and steak chunks.
Last night Tesco said it had terminated its contract with JBS. A Tesco spokesperson said: "We started to cut back our supplies from JBS a year ago and have now ceased sourcing any canned beef products from JBS. Ethics and sustainability remain an important part of our dialogue with suppliers."