JBS

Background

JBS (José Batista Sobrinho Sociedade Anónima) is the world’s largest meat supplier, according to Bloomberg, and the second-largest food company, according to JBS’s website. The company produces beef, pork, lamb, chicken, and convenience food products. [1], [2]

Headquartered in São Paulo, Brazil and founded in 1953, JBS owns 70 different brands and over 450 production units and sales sites in more than 20 countries. It has 250,000 employees and market access to 190 countries worldwide. In 2020, JBS reported net revenue of R$270 billion. [3]

JBS operates through five business units: JBS Brazil (beef and leather production in Brazil), Seara (poultry and pork processing in Brazil), JBS USA Beef (beef processing in the U.S., Australia and Canada), JBS USA Pork (pork processing in the U.S.), and Pilgrim’s Pride (poultry and pork processing in the U.S., Europe and Mexico). As of 2021, the company reported the capacity to slaughter more than 75,000 cows, 115,000 pigs and 14 million birds per day. [3], [2]

In a report based on research by the environmental organizations GRAIN and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), the UK sustainable farming charity Feedback estimated that JBS has the “largest climate footprint of any meat company in the world, with independent calculations suggesting that in 2016 its emissions rivalled Taiwan’s at 280 million tonnes [Mt] of CO2-eq.” [4]

In 2021, JBS announced a goal of achieving net-zero emissions, including “scope 3” emissions, by 2040, and zero deforestation across its supply chain by 2035. The same year, JBS was given a score of 1 out of 100 on the Soy and Cattle Deforestation Tracker developed by the environmental organisation Mighty Earth. The company has been repeatedly accused of sourcing beef from farmers linked with illegal deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.  [3], [5], [6], [7]

According to a 2020 report published by the International Land Coalition (ILC), the state-owned Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES) owns nearly 25 percent of JBS. In 2017, the owners of JBS were fined 10.3 billion real ($3.2 billion), one of the highest “leniency fines” ever levied, after admitting they had bribed more than 1,800 Brazilian politicians. In 2020, JBS was fined more than $280 million over foreign bribery charges that helped the company to expand its operations in the U.S. [8], [9], [10]

Stance on Climate Change

In JBS’s 2020 annual report, the company’s CEO stated that “global warming is one [of] humanity’s greatest challenges, and we want to be part of the change.” [3]

In a video published in 2021 by JBS USA on LinkedIn, the company announced it was aiming to achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, reduce the emissions intensity of its operations by 30 percent by 2030, fully transition to renewable electricity by 2040, and invest $100 million by 2030 in research and development on “producer sustainability projects like regenerative farming and carbon sequestration.” [11]

In JBS’s 2019 sustainability report, the company stated that initiatives “to reduce direct emissions are mainly focused on the volume of fossil fuels and energy consumed,” with a “major effort” also being made to “achieve a cleaner energy matrix, to use waste in generating energy, to gain more efficiency in treating industrial effluents and to increase the logistics efficiency of the Company’s own and third-party fleets.” [12]

Livestock emissions

JBS reported emissions of 6.63 Mt of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) in 2018 and 7.14 Mt CO2e in 2019, noting that emissions rose “due to the acquisition of new operations by the Company, such as Tulip, in Europe.” In its estimates, JBS includes emissions from the company’s vehicle fleets and electricity use, as well as “fuels used to generate energy or heat in operations, effluent treatment ponds and enteric fermentation from animals on feedlots or Company farms”: these are known collectively as scope 1 and 2 emissions. [12]

Scope 1 and 2 emissions stem from the direct activities of a company or activities under its control and from the production of energy used by the company. Scope 3 emissions are all other indirect emissions from a company’s activities, originating from sources it does not own or control, including emissions caused by land use, land-use change, and farms that supply meat companies. JBS defines scope 3 emissions as “indirect emissions resulting from the third-party fleet, commercial air travel, decomposition of waste on third-party properties and others,” stating that “emissions in this scope are therefore considered to be emissions over which the Company has no responsibility or indirect responsibility.” [13], [14], [12]

In contrast to JBS’s estimates, UK sustainable farming charity Feedback states that JBS has the “largest climate footprint of any meat company in the world, with independent calculations suggesting that in 2016 its emissions rivalled Taiwan’s at 280 million tonnes of CO2-eq,” based on research by environmental organizations GRAIN and IATP. The estimate was derived using the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) Global Livestock Environmental Assessment Model (GLEAM) 2.0, which covers scope 1–3 emissions and includes land use and land-use change. [4], [15]

Feedback criticised the focus of meat producers’ emissions strategies on scope 1 and 2 emissions, stating in 2020: “They’re farming companies using the emissions reduction strategies of transport companies rather than coming up with strategies that are consummate with the fact that they are meat and dairy companies.” [16]

JBS told DeSmog it had “already begun the process of setting Science Based Targets (SBTs) as part of our work with the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and look forward to transparently sharing our progress as our work continues.”

Key Narratives

JBS promotes a number of narratives to justify its business model. Find out more about how the meat industry is climate-washing its activities in our investigation. And you can read counter-arguments and criticisms of these narratives in our factsheet.

‘Animal agriculture isn’t a serious driver of climate change’

‘Our feed comes from responsible sources’

In 2020, Gilberto Tomazoni, CEO of JBS, stated in a panel marking World Food Day: “We can guarantee 100% of our direct suppliers do not deforest the Amazon.” In 2021, JBS announced a commitment to achieve zero deforestation across its supply chain by 2035. Greenpeace described the announcement as “a major step backward from a pledge originally made [by JBS] in 2009 to deliver zero deforestation across the entire Amazon supply base by 2011.” [17], [5], [18]

JBS has been given a score of 1 out of 100 on the Soy and Cattle Deforestation Tracker developed by Mighty Earth, a global environmental organisation. 

A 2021 Greenpeace report found that JBS had contributed, through its suppliers, to the 2020 fires in Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands. [6], [19]

According to a 2020 report by the International Land Coalition (ILC), an alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations, JBS buys from the 145,000-hectare Lagoa do Triunfo ranch owned by billionaire Daniel Dantas, a ranch that has been repeatedly linked to and fined for illegal deforestation in the Amazon. [8]

‘Grazing supports biodiversity’

In the company’s 2020 annual report, JBS stated that the company was planning an initiative to “assist cattle ranchers in the promotion of environmental regularization and in the increase of sustainable productivity – which reduces carbon emissions and improves local biodiversity.” [3]

The US-based environmental group, Center for Biological Diversity, states: “The ecological costs of livestock grazing exceed that of any other western land use.” A 2020 study by researchers from the University of Alberta warned that scaling up livestock grazing to meet future food demand could threaten the biodiversity of herbivores and pollinators worldwide. [32], [33]

‘Meat is needed for a healthy diet and to feed the world’ 

‘Meat is needed to feed the world’s growing population’

JBS USA states on its website that the company “is committed to helping meet the global challenge of feeding a growing population, responsibly, by improving the efficiency of our operations and minimizing our environmental footprint.” In 2020, Gilberto Tomazoni, CEO of JBS, stated in a panel marking World Food Day that “our challenge to feed the world will only become greater in the future,” citing FAO data that the world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion people by 2050. [20], [17]

According to the World Resources Institute (WRI), a sustainable development organisation, feeding 10 billion people by 2050 without transitioning to a more plant-based global diet would necessitate the destruction of the world’s remaining forests, and “agriculture alone would produce almost twice the emissions allowable from all human activities.” [21], [22]

‘Innovations in animal agriculture will tackle climate change’

‘Emissions intensity reduction is a climate solution’

In March 2021, JBS announced a goal to reach net-zero emissions by 2040, including a reduction of its scope 1 and 2 emissions intensity by 30 percent by 2030. In its 2019 sustainability report, the company stated that it had reduced its emissions intensity by 17 percent based on a 2013, 2014 or 2015 average baseline, without specifying the exact year. [11], [12]

In 2020, JBS CEO Gilberto Tomazoni stated in a panel marking World Food Day that the company was working to “increase productivity and the quality of what we can offer to the consumer… while using a smaller area of pasture.” According to food news site Foodnavigator, Tomazoni further noted that “technology had enabled ‘a giant step’ in the sustainable production process” and that “we have a huge capacity to produce more without devastating anything.” [17]

Sustainable farming organizations GRAIN and IATP argue, however, “that the large gains in ‘efficiency’ realised by industrial farming in the twentieth century will be hard to repeat without major ecological, social and health impacts.” The organisations describe the efficiency of intensive livestock production as “a myth.” [23]

‘Technological innovations will cut emissions’

In 2020, Gilberto Tomazoni, CEO of JBS, stated in a panel marking World Food Day that JBS “was committed to investing in technology in order to fight deforestation and climate change,” including initiatives such as “a blockchain platform to monitor direct and indirect suppliers and investment into solar energy and water and waste schemes.” Tomazoni argued that “technology had enabled ‘a giant step’ in the sustainable production process” and that the company had “a huge capacity to produce more without devastating anything.” [17]

The arguments echo those of the pesticides industry, which argues that “precision agriculture” can be a climate solution. Critics claim it is unlikely to be sufficiently effective and comes with other problems.

Lobbying

According to a 2020 report published by the International Land Coalition (ILC), a global alliance of civil society and intergovernmental organisations, “the dramatic expansion of JBS […] is not just a story of ambition and business acumen, but is just as much one of how regulations can be circumvented and state resources mobilised to support the international expansion of a particular corporation.” [8]

The report noted that JBS received “billions of dollars from the state-owned Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES), borrowed at preferential interest rates,” pointing out that the BNDES lent $2 billion to JBS in 2009 alone, the year JBS acquired the U.S. company Pilgrim’s Pride. It also noted BNDES “now owns close to 25% of the company, giving the government of Brazil a direct interest in its success.” [8]

The report stated that the financial support JBS has received has been linked to the company’s payment of bribes to government officials and three different Brazilian presidents, citing articles from the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, and Brazilian news site G1 Polític. In 2017, the owners of JBS, Josely and Wesley Batista, were fined 10.3 billion real ($3.2 billion), one of the highest “leniency fines” ever levied, after admitting that they had bribed more than 1,800 Brazilian politicians. In 2020, JBS was fined more than $280 million over foreign bribery charges that helped the company to expand its operations in the U.S. [24], [25], [26], [9], [10]

In 2014, JBS gave close to R$350 million to members of Brazil’s National Congress, according to a report published by researchers at the Federal University of Espírito Santo. [27]

In the US, JBS spent $8.41 million on lobbying, between 2007 and 2020, according to data compiled by OpenSecrets. During the same period, JBS lobbied the following agencies: [28], [29]

  • Dept of Agriculture
  • Dept of the Treasury
  • Dept of Energy
  • Dept of Homeland Security
  • Dept of Justice
  • Environmental Protection Agency
  • Office of Management & Budget
  • Office of US Trade Representative
  • White House

In 2020, JBS contributed $133,835 to federal candidates – 85 percent to Republicans and 15 percent to Democrats – with recipients including: [30]

In 2018, JBS contributed $46,442 to federal candidates – 96 percent to Republicans and 4 percent to Democrats – including: [31]

Affiliations

As of 2021, JBS was a member of: [12]

Global

  • Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB)
  • International Meat Trade Association
  • International Consortium for Antimicrobial Stewardship in Agriculture
  • International Institute of Ammonia Refrigeration
  • Leather Naturally
  • Leather Working Group (LWG)
  • Sustainable Agriculture Initiative
  • Global GAP

Australia

  • Australian Beef Sustainability Framework
  • Australian Environmental Business Network
  • Australian Food and Grocery Council
  • Australian Lot Feeders’ Association
  • Australian Meat Industry Council
  • Australian Meat Processor Corporation
  • Australian Pork Limited
  • Cattle Council of Australia
  • Meat and Livestock Australia

Canada

  • Alberta Motor Carrier Association
  • Canadian Cattlemen’s Association
  • Canadian Meat Council
  • Canadian Renderers Association
  • Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef
  • Cattle Council of Australia
  • Fats and Protein Research Foundation

Brazil

  • Poultry Growers Association of Bahia (ABA)
  • Brazilian Association of the Food Industries (ABIA)
  • Brazilian Beef Exporters Association (ABIEC)
  • Brazilian Agribusiness Association (ABAG)
  • Brazilian Association of the Plastics Industry (Abiplast)
  • Brazilian Association of Vegetable Oil Industries (Abiove)
  • Brazilian Animal Protein Association (ABPA)
  • Brazilian Association of Broiler Chick Producers (APINCO)
  • Poultry Growers Association of Minas Gerais (AVIMIG)
  • Industrial Association of Meat and Meat
  • Byproducts of Santa Catarina (SINDECARNE-SC)
  • Centre for the Brazilian Tanning Industry (CICB)
  • Brazilian Coalition on Climate, Forests and Agriculture Packaging Coalition
  • Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock (BRSL)
  • Instituto Ethos
  • Institute for the National Pact to Eradicate Slave Labour – INPACTO
  • Trade Association of the Poultry Products
  • Industry of the State of Paraná (SINDIAVPAR)
  • São Paulo State Cold Products Industry Association (SINDIFRIO)
  • Sindicato Nacional da Indústria de Alimentação Animal (SINDERAÇÕES)
  • Tropical Forest Alliance (TFA)
  • União Nacional das Indústrias e Empresas de Carne (UNIEC)
  • Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock (BRSL)

United States

  • Alabama Feed and Grain Association
  • Alabama Poultry and Egg Association
  • American Association of Avian Pathologists
  • American Association of Swine Veterinarians
  • American College of Poultry Veterinarians
  • American Fats and Oils Association
  • American Feed Industry Association
  • American Leather Chemist Association
  • American Meat Science Association
  • American Society of Animal Science
  • American Veterinarian Medical Association
  • Asociación de Industriales de Puerto Rico
  • Association of National Advertisers
  • Beef Industry Food Safety Council
  • Colorado Motor Carrier Association
  • Food Safety Preventative Controls Alliance
  • Georgia Association of Water Professionals
  • Georgia Poultry Federation
  • Georgia Veterinarian Medical Association
  • Institute of Food Technologists
  • Kentucky Poultry Federation
  • Kentucky Rural Water Association
  • Missouri Pork Producers Association
  • National Cattlemen’s Beef Association
  • National Chicken Council
  • National Oilseed Processor Association
  • National Pork Board
  • National Pork Producers Council
  • National Renderers Association
  • North American Meat Institute
  • North Carolina Poultry Federation
  • Organic Trade Association
  • Palmetto Agribusiness Council
  • Pet Food Alliance
  • Poultry Science Association
  • Research Chefs Association
  • South Carolina Poultry Federation
  • Southern Poultry Science Association
  • Southwest Meat Association
  • Tennessee Poultry Association
  • Texas Broiler Association
  • Texas Grain and Feed Association
  • Texas Poultry Improvement Association
  • Trucking Industry Defense Association
  • Uniform Intermodal Interchange Agreement
  • USA Poultry and Egg Export Council

United Kingdom and European Union

  • Bord Bia
  • British Frozen Food Federation
  • British Poultry Council
  • Campden BRI Food and Drink Initiative
  • Chilled Food Association
  • European Federation for Beef and Pork Meat
  • French Meat Federation
  • French Meat Interprofessional Federation
  • French Poultry Federation
  • Institute of Livestock or INRA (French National Institute of Agricultural Research)
  • Northern Ireland Food and Drink Association
  • Northern Ireland Poultry Federation
  • Northern Ireland Food Chain Certification
  • Organic Farmers and Growers
  • Red Tractor

Resources

  1. Fabiana Batista. “JBS Expands Plant-Based Food Products With Vivera Acquisition,” Bloomberg, 19 April 2021. Archived July 16, 2021
  2. Corporate Profile,” JBS. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/owLxI 
  3. JBS 2020 Management Report and Financial Statements,” SEC Report, March 24, 2021. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/BbbtF 
  4. BUTCHERING THE PLANET,” Feedback Global. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/v2PhD 
  5. Aurora Solá. “JBS Promises to Stop Destroying the Environment—in 14 Years,” Sentient Media, April 13, 2021. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/use4q 
  6. SOY & CATTLE DEFORESTATION TRACKER,” MIGHTY EARTH. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/c6FOq 
  7. André Campos et al.“Revealed: new evidence links Brazil meat giant JBS to Amazon deforestation,” The Guardian, July 27, 2020. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/Mgq7E 
  8. UNEARTHING LESS VISIBLE TRENDS IN LAND INEQUALITY,” International Land Coalition. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/iidoN 
  9. Ricardo Brito, Tatiana Bautzer. “Brazil’s J&F agrees to pay record $3.2 billion fine in leniency deal,” Reuters, May 31, 2017. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/ALowV 
  10. SYLVAN LANE , “Owners of meatpacker JBS to pay $280M fine over foreign bribery charges,” The Hill, October 20, 2020. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/AsjUI 
  11. Commitment to Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2040,” JBS USA, March 23, 2021. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/EgHWW 
  12. Annual and Sustainability Report 2019,” JBS. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/iviv0 
  13. What is the Difference Between Scope 1, 2 and 3 Emissions?,”Compare Your Footprint, November 2, 2018. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/bvtk7 
  14. Measure the Chain: Tools for Assessing GHG Emissions in Agricultural Supply Chains,” Engage the Chain. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/SeKuQ 
  15. Emissions impossible,” IATP, July 2018. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/sJTS7 
  16. Claire Hamlett. “What Are Meat and Dairy Companies Doing to Reduce Emissions?,” Sentient Media, August 19, 2020. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/Xqh5d 
  17. Oliver Morrison“JBS: ‘Our suppliers are producing more while using less land’,” Food Navigator, October 19, 2020. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/oYHfe 
  18. Katie Nelson. “JBS extends immunity to forest criminals to feed its supply chain until at least 2035 in surreal ‘global commitment’,” Greenpeace, March 25, 2021. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/rcu4f 
  19. Making Mincemeat of the Pantanal,” Greenpeace International, March 3, 2021. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/znxS4 
  20. Environment,” JBS USA. Archived July 16, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/fPWg9 
  21. Tim Searchinger et al. “CREATING A SUSTAINABLE FOOD FUTURE,” World Resource Institute, December 2018. Archived July 14, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/awSZe  
  22. Damian Carrington. “Beef-eating ‘must fall drastically’ as world population grows,” The Guardian, December 5, 2018. Archived July 14, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/Ltffu 
  23. GRAIN and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP). Emissions impossible: How big meat and dairy are heating up the planet,” GRAIN, July 18, 2018. Archived July 14, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/v0grw 
  24. Brazilian Bribery Allegations Escalate Clash Between Government, Businesses,” Wall Street Journal. Archived July 17, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/7uiDK 
  25. Kimberly Kindy. “This foreign meat company got U.S. tax money. Now it wants to conquer America,” The Washington Post, November 7, 2019. Archived July 17, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/AfB5b 
  26. JBS pagou para conseguir aportes e financiamentos do BNDES, diz delação de Joesley Batista,” Globo, May 20, 2017. Archived July 17, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/JaAQl 
  27. Elaine Azevedo. “Food Lobbies,” Ingesta Magazine, March 28, 2019. Archived July 17, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/z3Blm 
  28. Client Profile: JBS SA,” Open Secrets. Archived July 17, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/bratB 
  29. Agencies Lobbied By JBS SA, 2020,” Open Secrets. Archived July 17, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/ofPGh 
  30. JBS SA Profile: Recipients 2020,” Open Secrets. Archived July 17, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/hwTg2 
  31. JBS SA Profile: Recipients 2018,” Open Secrets. Archived July 17, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/zZ4pa 
  32. Grazing,” Centre for Biological Diversity. Archived July 14, 2021. Archive.ph URL: https://archive.ph/DAcFu 
  33. Alessandro Filazzola, Charlotte Brown, Margarete A. Dettlaff, Amgaa Batbaatar, Jessica Grenke, Tan Bao, Isaac Peetoom Heida and James F. Cahill Jr. “The effects of livestock grazing on biodiversity are multi-trophic: a meta-analysis,” Ecology Letters, 2020.  Archived July 13, 2021

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