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The Amazon rainforest has been facing severe deforestation problems for several decades — it has lost about a fifth of its forest in the past three. While there are many causes, one of the main causes is cattle ranching, particularly in Brazil. Trees are cut and the land is converted into a pasture for cattle grazing. According to one report, an estimated 70 percent of deforestation in the Amazon basin can be attributed to cattle ranching. Using these numbers, cattle ranching in the Amazon has resulted in the loss of an area larger than the state of Washington.

Beef Production is Killing the Amazon RainforestYale Environment 360

Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef. Between 1996 and 2004, the total export value of beef increased tenfold from $1.9 million to $1.9 billion, making Brazil the world’s largest beef exporter. It has the largest commercial cattle herd of approximately 180 – 190 million head. The government of Brazil offers loans of billions of dollars to support the expansion of its beef industry. Approximately 200 million pounds of beef is imported by the United States from Central America every year. While the chief importers of Brazilian beef were previously Europe and North America, nowadays Asian countries such as China and Russia consume more Brazilian beef than the European market. So, the demand is increasing day by day.  

Beef Production is Killing the Amazon Rainforest

With increasing population and increased per capita meat consumption, the rate of deforestation is increasing every day as well. It is expected that by 2018, the beef export will increase 93 percent, thereby increasing Brazil’s beef market share of world exports to 61 percent. Beef is the most carbon-intensive form of meat production on the planet. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization finds that beef production gives rise to more greenhouse gases than the transportation industry.

Beef Production is Killing the Amazon RainforestMongabay.com

However, change may be in the air. Many companies, NGOs, and governments have taken steps to conserve rainforests and buy only certified beef products. Buyers of cattle products such as Nike, Timberland, Carrefour, and Wal-Mart have declared that they will buy only certified cattle products. The NGO Alianca da Terra in Brazil is working to reduce deforestation of the Amazon due to beef production by creating incentives for producers to maintain their forest reserves. And, the Brazilian government has recently announced plans to reduce forest clearing of an area of about 2,100 square miles per year by 2018.  In 2013, 26 Brazilian beef producers faced fines of nearly $300 million from government prosecutors for buying cattle raised illegally on deforested Amazon rainforest land.

Despite these efforts, deforestation of the Amazon due to cattle ranching is continuing. What’s more, there are still many companies who buy significant volumes of beef knowingly from farms engaged in illegal deforestation. Hopefully, by increasing awareness about this issue in addition to pressuring companies to change their practices, solutions can be implemented for the Amazon before it’s too late.

Lead image source: Jami Dwyer / Wikipedia Commons

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25 comments on “Beef Production is Killing the Amazon Rainforest”

Click to add comment
Winter Rose
2 Years Ago

Oh Absolutely True! ♥

Caterina Torres
2 Years Ago


Shelley Larkin-krebs
2 Years Ago

So glad I'm vegan

17 Jan 2015


Diane McKeel
2 Years Ago


Erich Reiser
2 Years Ago


Matthew Corlew
2 Years Ago

Would rather eat beef then trees. Sounds like Brazil's problem. Not mine. Living in Texas, I eat deer, hog, and Texas beef.

David Young
23 Mar 2014

It's the whole world's problem, hillbilly.

23 Mar 2014

People like you have ruined the planet. You think it doesn\'t affect you because it\'s not in your own backyard? PLEASE get educated. Your comment is so ignorant.

25 Mar 2014

You\'re a sad, ignorant man. "Not my problem" is the exact attitude that is allowing for horrendous destruction of the environment.
This isn\'t a matter of what humans eat. This is a matter of habitat and leaving our most vital ecosystems alone. If we don\'t have these systems and turn everything into agriculture we\'ll have massive desertification. This has happened in areas of China, the Jordan Valley, and Africa, to name a few, because of this exact attitude. Ecosystems that surround agricultural areas DO MATTER if we want to continue to grow food and raise livestock. Get your head out of your big Texan ass and use if before you talk

Diane Askwyth
2 Years Ago

a species doomed to extinction- that's us

Amber McAdoo
2 Years Ago

Overpopulation... :/

23 Mar 2014

You said it!!!

25 Mar 2014

Overpopulation is not the issue and is an ideology created by people who do not understand the root cause of food insecurity. Overconsumption and waste is an even bigger issue than overpopulation. We produce 30% more food than we need to feed the entire population of the human race worldwide annually. However, corporatism and entitlement to food creates an ideology that we need less people to eat. We only need less people if we\'re willing to grotesquely waste and not appreciate the food that we consume. Fuels made from crops are a joke as well. It wastes food we could use to feed people. The USA can only produce 22 days of fuel for the entire country with its biofuel crops whereas those crops have enough calories to feed a few million people for the year. Again, overpopulation is NOT THE ISSUE.

Nikki Scott
2 Years Ago

Oh it's never ending...if it's not palm oil it's pulp...now this... Greed greed greed! It seems that we are fast tracking towards the extinction of the rainforests which is very bad indeed

Helen Thompson
2 Years Ago

Just buy local. Easy in the UK.

Eran Galili
22 Mar 2014

Just don't buy them :( Go vegan. Please watch Earthlings! - http://earthlings.com/?page_id=32/

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