ITV News correspondent Robert Evelyn reports on the everyday products associated with deforestation in Brazil
It’s Britain’s most famous dairy brand that lives in our refrigerators.
Cadbury Chocolate, Cathedral City Cheddar Cheese, Anchor Butter, Country Life Butter, Alfalfa Dairy, Davidsto’s Cheddar, Arla’s Cravendell Milk, and Asda Farmers’ Milk – they all wear their own British farm credentials, and we consume them in bulk.
But an investigation by ITV News, Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Greenpeace Unearthed has linked them to the destruction of vast swathes of Brazilian forests through soybeans – a protein-rich food supplement for livestock.
The Cerrado in Brazil is the most biologically diverse savannah in the world. A forest rich in species and absorbing high-value carbon dioxide, it is burned and felled to grow soybeans.
We can reveal that soybeans from deforested land are mixed with certified beans and eventually fed to dairy cattle in the UK. Milk often ends up in the dairy products we know and love.
And while our investigation identified the above household names, there could be more British dairy products linked to deforestation in Brazil.
Anna Jones of Greenpeace explains the global impact deforestation of Cerrado can have
“People don’t really realize that their cheese contains deforestation,” says Anna Jones of Greenpeace UK.“The reason why it matters is because these forests that have been destroyed are so important to our climate and the health of our planet. If we didn’t have those forests, our climate would go into some kind of chaos.”
The UK imports about 2.6 million tons of soybeans for animal feed each year – that’s the weight of more than 5,000 jumbo jets.
Roughly 30% comes from Brazil, according to EFECA, and some of it is from Cerrado.
Over the years, more than half of the original Cerrado Forest had been cleared for cultivation. Every three months it loses an area of forest the size of London, according to the World Wide Fund for Nature.
Our investigation found that Cargill, one of the world’s largest food groups, supplies soybeans from recently deforested farms in the Cerrado region. US-owned Cargill supplies soy to some of the UK’s largest feed companies. The dairy farmers here believe they buy sour soybeans sustainably, but our investigation suggests otherwise.
About 2% of cattle feed contains soy, and while the number is small, the effect is significant, allowing cows to increase milk production.
Fifth-generation Cornish dairy farmer James Warren feeds his award-winning flock with a blend that contains about 1.4% soybeans. He told us that sustainability is his top priority, but there is an impact on the cost of taking soy out of the equation: “It’s a very high source of protein. Soy helps you produce milk as economically as possible, so we’re price-judged, and that’s the price supermarkets are willing to pay.” us in return for it.”
“We have to produce milk to keep our business, and to stay in the industry, as economically as possible.”
James is concerned that his feed could be linked to deforestation, but believes that the responsibility does not lie solely with British dairy farmers.
He said: I love the countryside. As farmers, we work in the countryside and do not want to see deforestation in any part of the world. So it will be of concern to us. We want to be part of the solution, we want to work with the audience and we want the public to buy our products.”
James believes that supermarkets are among those who can do more to prevent deforestation
“Deforestation – that’s not sustainable. And sustainability is what I want, and that’s what everyone wants, but that means if we work together and change, that’s the way forward. However, it needs everyone to work together from the source, even the supermarkets.” , and consumers.Deforestation in the Cerrado extends far beyond illegal activity. Twenty-one hectares of vegetation have been lost every day in the past year in the area, according to Mapbiomas — the size of 20 international rugby fields. Private land owners in Brazil are still legally allowed to destroy forests for farming.
Dr. Marta Giannici of the Brazilian Ministry of Environment told me she has no problem with this because it is legal:“Forest law allows rural landowners to suppress a certain amount of vegetation… and it happens in areas where it is allowed to happen. This is my view.”“Essentially, because it is a law that you have no problem with?” I asked.Dr. Giannicchi replied, “Yes.”
Dr. Marta Giannicchi of Brazil’s Environment Ministry tells ITV News why she has no problem with private landowners destroying forests for agriculture.
All companies participating in our investigation indicate their use of certification to ensure sustainability. But as our research reveals, uncertified soybeans enter the feed creating questions about the supply chain.Cargill told ITV News, “We take this type of grievance against a supplier very seriously… If violations are found in any area, we will take immediate action in accordance with our soybean complaints process. Cargill has worked tirelessly to build A more sustainable soybean supply chain.”
Arla Foods, which makes Anchor Butter, Cravendale Milk and ASDA Milk, told ITV News: “Both Arla and the dairy farmers who own our collaboration are taking steps to responsibly manage our use of soybeans. Since 2014, we have purchased RTRS credits to cover forage use of soybeans on Arla owner farms. And in components that are not already approved.”
Saputo, which makes Cathedral City cheddar cheese, Country Life butter, Clover dairy, and Davidstow cheddar said: “As of early 2022, our Davidstow Farm standards will mandate that all farms that supply Davidstow Cream to Saputo Dairy UK must have Feed from suppliers in a sustainable way. Soybean purchase policy.” They added that they have purchased loans to support producers who grow soybeans in a responsible manner.Asda, whose milk is supplied by Arla, said: “We understand the importance of sustainable soybeans to our customers and are committed to reducing food production linked to deforestation. The soybean supply chain can be very complex, and we are working with our suppliers on a plan to ensure that by 2025, all soybeans are certified We have soy financially.”
Mondelez, owner of Cadbury, said: “Eliminating deforestation is critical to protecting local ecosystems that farmers need to produce sustainable raw materials. “As part of our commitment to tackle deforestation, we have made it clear that we expect all UK dairy suppliers to work with us and are contractually committed to ensuring they have 100% deforestation-free feed by 2023.”For supermarkets stocking these products, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) says it has “called on the Brazilian government to halt deforestation of the Amazon for soy production, and is working with other stakeholders to ensure that soybean sources meet customer expectations for sustainability.”
“In addition, the BRC and its members call on the UK government to include mandatory due diligence in environmental law to address deforestation and related human rights.”Dairy products are at the heart of our food chain as milk production is the thriving force. However, with cows being fed a diet associated with deforestation, we are eating in forests that only save the planet to meet human food needs.
Additional reporting by Philip Syme and ITV News and Andrew Wasley and Elisangela Mendonca of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.