Brazil is a major global exporter of beef. But who is buying it all?

Blazing infernos have been ripping through the Amazon rainforest for weeks.

The scale of the disaster was revealed via data from the country's National Institute for Space Research (Inpe), which detected 72,843 fires between January and August, a gargantuan 84 percent increase compared to the same period in 2018. 

Follow the money to find the source of the problem. (Photo: Plant Based News) 

Follow the money to find the source of the problem. (Photo: Plant Based News) 

Brazilian president

Many conservationists, scientists, and media outlets have cited the country's beef industry as a major factor in the fires, saying many of the blazes were started intentionally by farmers and loggers clearing land to raise cattle. 

"The practice is on the rise, encouraged by Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's populist pro-business president, who is backed by the country's so-called 'beef caucus'," says CNN. "While this may be business as usual for Brazil's beef farmers, the rest of the world is looking on in horror." 

Worth it for a burger?

In light of these recent blazes, many of us are asking: "Is the sacrifice of the Earth's largest rainforest really worth the taste of a steak or burger?"

Brazil is the world's largest exporter of beef (when it comes to volume), with Global Meat News reporting: "Brazil's beef market is continuing to break records after the Brazilian Beef Exporters Association (ABIEC) revealed that it closed the year (2018) with its largest-ever beef exports by volume."

The publication listed the leading destination for Brazilian beef as Asia, with Hong Kong and China topping demand. "Hong Kong represented 24 percent of beef shipped by Brazil, which amounted to almost 395,000 tonnes of animal flesh, which is the equivalent of about 158,000 elephants," it added.

"China, on the other hand, was the leading destination for revenue, representing 22.63 percent of beef shipments, valued at $1.49bn. The European Union, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Chile were among the other markets that increased in volume and revenue in 2018 compared to 2017."

According to open access platform Trase, which is designed to increase supply chain transparency, in 2017, three major companies accounted for just over 60 percent of the exports of beef. These are JBS, Minerva, and Marfrig. JBS, the biggest of the three, accounted for more than 500,000 tons of exported beef.

Demanding Change 

The impact of demand for beef around the world and its resulting impact on the Amazon is a global concern. Leaders in all countries have a duty of care to the people of this earth to highlight the damage and the vast environmental cost of farming beef. 

Farming animals is the leading cause of ocean dead zones, widespread species extinction, river acidification, and greenhouse gas emissions. With the incoming climate crisis, we have to shift our entire economic and agricultural system away from animal farming. 

If you feel compelled to make a change, there are several organizations globally that can educate and inform you and your family about how to make the switch to a plant-based diet. Please visit Veganuary, Choose Veg and also Challenge 22.

As vegan environmental activist Greta Thunberg said: "Our house is on fire. We need to act, and we need to work together now to bring the urgent changes our planet needs to see." 

Time is running out.