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Brazilian demand for meat is putting the Cerrado at risk

Meat production in Brazil is threatening the rich biodiversity of the Cerrado, according to new analysis by Global Canopy, that shows links between the municipalities with the highest levels of deforestation and soy production for the domestic market, primarily used for animal feed.

A third of the 2016 soy harvest from Matopiba, an agricultural frontier in the Cerrado where soy expansion has been recently linked to native vegetation clearance, was sold to the domestic market

Three quarters of all the soy crushed in Brazil in 2017 was used for soymeal, a key ingredient in animal feed. The rest was processed into soybean oil which is used primarily for biodiesel.

In 2017, 16.5 million tons of soymeal was produced for the domestic market, and over 90 percent of that was used for animal feed in Brazil. More than half is used for chicken feed, with a quarter used for pig feed, and 12 percent used for beef and dairy cattle.

Global Canopy researcher, Andre Vasconcelos, said:

“Soy is a hidden ingredient in the Brazilian diet and most people do not know they are eating it. But our appetite for meat is one of the big drivers behind the clearance of vegetation in the Cerrado.

“We need to wake up to the cost of our meat consumption. Brazil is the third largest per capita consumer of beef and the sixth biggest consumer of chicken in the world. Brazilian meat producers can do far more to make sure that they are not sourcing soy for animal feed from areas where there is a high risk of vegetation loss. The Cerrado is vital for Brazil’s water supplies and it is rapidly disappearing.”

Global Canopy’s research found that almost half of the soy crushing capacity in the Cerrado is held by companies who do not have any commitments to eliminate deforestation from all their supply chains.

Similarly, none of the companies operating in the Brazilian meat production sector have policies not to purchase soy from deforested areas in the Cerrado.

The Brazil’s biodiesel industry is contributing to the problem, with 70 percent of Brazilian biodiesel produced from soybean oil. Just three biodiesel producers, which account for only 18% of production, have commitments not to purchase soy from recent deforested areas.

Contact: Helen Burley,, tel: +44 7703 731923


1. Eating the Cerrado, Global Canopy, November 2018

2. Interactive charts, maps and pictures available on request

3. Figures on Brazilian meat consumption from

4. This research was done as part of the Power of Procurement Project, a partnership of CDP, Global Canopy, FNC, and SPdE. This project is supported by Norad.