The world’s largest meat processor has agreed to stop buying beef from ranches associated with slave labor and illegal deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, according to the public prosecutor’s office in the state of Acre. The deal absolves JBS-Friboi from 2 billion reals ($1.3 billion) in potential fines and paves the way for the firm to continue selling meat to companies concerned about their environmental reputation.
The agreement is significant because it was signed by prosecutors from other Amazon states including Rondonia, Amazonas, Roraima, Pará, Tocantins, Maranhão and Amapá. Other cattle giants are expected to follow suit.
Under the terms of the deal, JBS agreed to stop buying cattle from areas embargoed by environmental inspection agencies and lands classified as conservation units or indigenous territories, unless the management plans of those areas allow for livestock. Cattle production often occurs illegally in forests zoned for conservation or indigenous use and squatters are used as proxies to grab the land. JBS will also not buy cattle from ranches that have been convicted of labor abuses, including slave labor.
From September 2012, JBS will only buy meat from ranches that have registered their holdings with the government and have the proper environmental licenses.
Any breach of the agreement could result in fines up to 500 reals ($300) per pound of beef.