U.S. companies supplying meat to Burger King are deforesting millions of acres in Brazil and Bolivia and other Latin American countries to grow soy that feeds cattle, contracting farmers who are enticed into growing the product, a new report showed.
The report, published by the global campaign organization Mighty Earth, claimed that between 2001 and 2010 “an average of approximately 4 million hectares (9 million acres) of forests were destroyed each year, mostly for soy and cattle” in Latin America.
The investigation focused mostly on Bolivia’s lowland forests and the Brazilian Cerrado, a vast tropical savanna ecoregion in the country.
Farmers in those areas have burnt millions of acres of forests in order to work with U.S. trade companies such as Cargill, Bunge, and ADM who “buy grain, build silos and roads, provide farmers with fertilizer, and even finance land-clearing operations.”
“Companies found in Burger King’s supply chain have been linked to ongoing destruction of forests and native prairies — habitat for wildlife like sloths, jaguars, giant anteaters and other species,” the report warned.
The report said that in 2016, almost 5 million hectares of land were deforested in Brazil, compared to almost 4 million in 2015. In Bolivia, 2016 saw the deforestation of more than 2 million acres compared to 1.5 million a year in the 2000s.
Cargill, a privately-owned company with more than US$140 billion in assets, has sponsored Burger King’s annual convention in 2015 and donated thousands of dollars to the Burger King McLamore Foundation in 2014, according to the Guardian.
The meat suppliers, as well as Burger King, do not share information on how the meat is produced, or whether the food that goes into the meals is produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
Cattle fattened artificially are fed small amounts of hay supplemented with grain, soy and other ingredients in order to increase the energy density of the diet.
Environmental organizations, as well as campaigns by consumers, have repeatedly urged Burger King to stop using meat produced by deforestation but their calls have fallen on deaf ears.
“The connections are quite clear. Bunge and Cargill supply Burger King and other big meat sellers with grain,” Mighty Earth’s director Glenn Hurowitz told the British newspaper.
“If Burger King does not respond immediately to people who want to know where their food comes from, then people should shop elsewhere,” he advised.
The report warned that more than 50 percent of Cerrado’s natural vegetation has already been cleared, compared to 25 percent of the Amazon’s. The report also said that the deforestation in both countries has affected animals inhabiting those areas.