Cattle: Solutions to Tropical Deforestation for Beef and Leather

Photo: Rachel Kramer/NWF

 Brazil has the world’s largest commercial cattle herd, producing exports that exceed US$5 billion/year. In the Brazilian Amazon an area of rainforest larger than the state of Texas has now been cleared for pasture land.  

The trouble is, cattle ranching in Brazil is currently highly inefficient. In the present system just over one head of cattle is raised for every two and a half acres of cleared land, meaning for every cow produced two football fields of rainforest have been destroyed. 

  The solution lies in putting into place legal and economic incentives that encourage environmentally and socially responsible livestock production in Brazil. The Brazilian government is eager to see these changes made to help reduce deforestation in the Amazon region.    

Brazilian ranchers could have a positive effect on forest conservation by improving ranching methods (through tactics such as better animal breeding and improved pasture management). These basic adjustments have the potential to increase cattle production by two to three times on the same area of land, thereby eliminating demand for the clearing of additional forest.    

But consumers and companies also have an important role to play. Cattle ranchers need economic as well as legal incentives to improve their production system. Companies that purchase beef, leather, and other cattle products from Brazil can provide these incentives.   

Photo: Rachel Kramer/NWF



Right now, industry stakeholders, from ranchers to slaugherhouses, to companies to consumers, are coming together in Brazil to support the call for zero deforestation in the Amazon. They are laying the ground-work for a monitoring system for forests and ranches. A system of traceability will help stakeholders track where their raw materials come from and ensure that their products are not driving new deforestation in the Amazon.   


What can you do?

  • Before purchasing a pair of shoes, a purse, jacket, belt, or other  product made from leather, ask the store if they know where that leather came from. Even leather commodities that say that they are  “Made in Italy” or “Made in China” can be sourced from cattle raised in newly deforested areas of the Amazon.
  • Write to your favorite shoe and clothing manufacturers  and brands that sell packaged and frozen beef and tell them:

“As a loyal customer, I would like to know that the cattle products I buy from your company are NOT contributing to deforestation in the Amazon region”, and    

“I would be willing to pay a modest premium for items made from deforestation-free leather/beef. Please adopt a zero-deforestation policy for your supply chain!”

Forest Issues


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