New scandal ensnares JBS

by Erica Shaffer
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 JBS Foods
The company now faces allegations of buying cattle grazed in illegally deforested areas.
 

SÃO PAULO, Brazil – JBS SA, the world’s largest meatpacker, has been named in a new federal investigation into purchases of cattle that were grazed on illegally deforested land. JBS has denied any wrongdoing.

IBAMA, the Brazilian environmental protection agency, released the results of Operation “Carne Fria” which is a three-year probe of more than a dozen meat packers and at least 20 farms that sold cattle raised in Para, which occupies a large swath of the Amazon Rainforest. The state capital is Belem, which is located near the mouth of the Amazon River.

IBAMA had issued an embargo against the processing facilities operated by companies named in the investigation. However, JBS appealed the embargo, and the Brazilian federal justice issued a preliminary injunction allowing JBS processing plants to continue slaughter and processing operations. JBS said 33 out of 36 of the company's facilities are operating at 65 percent of slaughter/processing capacity to ensure appropriate levels of supply in the market. The change in production capacity is not related to Operation Carne Fria, the company noted.

In a statement, Cameron Bruett, JBS spokesperson, said, “JBS facilities are not subject to the embargo related to illegal deforestation, pursuant to a preliminary injunction issued by the Brazilian Federal Justice.

“JBS does not currently purchase and has not purchased any animals from the suppliers on the list of areas embargoed by IBAMA. JBS prioritizes the issues of deforestation and sustainability, as evidenced by the sophisticated satellite monitoring system of cattle suppliers we deploy to verify compliance with JBS environmental and sustainability standards. Our last three independent audits resulted in social and environmental compliance rates of more than 99.9 percent. Any supplier found out of compliance with our strict standards is immediately blocked from our internal system and ineligible to sell livestock to the company.”

According to IBAMA, JBS and several other meatpackers in the Brazilian states of Para, Tocantins and Bahia violated an agreement in which the companies agreed not to purchase cattle raised on protected lands. The agency said Operation Carne Fria is unrelated to the Federal Police anti-corruption probe in which JBS, BRF SA and dozens of smaller competitors are accused of bribing federal meat inspectors. Both companies have denied any wrongdoing in that investigation.

Production at JBS meat plants may ramp up as China, Chile and Egypt lifted bans on imports of meat products from Brazil in response to the anti-corruption investigation. In a statement, Agriculture Minister Blairo Maggi said “...China never closed the market to our products, but only took preventive measures so that we had the opportunity to offer all the necessary explanations and to guarantee the quality of our sanitary inspection. We are grateful for the gesture of confidence of China, our strategic partner, in the credibility of the Brazilian system.”

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