Sourcing beef responsibly

Last updated: 3/9/2020

Tesco and Zero Deforestation Beef

Cattle rearing and ranching for beef production occurs globally. North America, South America and the European Union are the largest producing regions of beef in the world.

Cattle ranching can be a significant driver of deforestation in South America due to the demands for land to rear cattle on. As the world population increases, so too is the global demand for meat such as beef. This increasing demand is leading to the loss of forests and other native vegetation, most critically in the Brazilian Amazon and Cerrado regions. As a member of the Consumer Goods Forum, Tesco is committed to zero-net deforestation in our sourcing of palm oil, soy, timber and beef by 2020.

The Brazilian Cattle Agreement and Forest Code were established in 2009 and 2012 respectively and are key initiatives to help protect forests in these regions. The Cattle Agreement is a voluntary agreement developed by Greenpeace Brazil and the major beef companies and was a step-change in the way beef companies monitored their supply chains. The agreement ensures that cattle ranches do not contribute to further deforestation or human rights violations. Participating companies undergo annual independent audits, to provide confidence and transparency in their supply chain controls. The Forest Code aims to protect Brazil’s natural ecosystems by requiring land owners to set aside a proportion of forest or native vegetation for conservation when developing their land, including the Amazon and the Cerrado.

While progress has been made under the Cattle Agreement and the Forest Code, the conversion of forests and native vegetation for cattle ranching continues. For instance, the Cattle Agreement only covers the Brazilian Amazon and only applies to direct suppliers of the beef companies. The monitoring of indirect suppliers for deforestation remains an industry-wide challenge in Brazil. We recognise the efforts of the Brazilian multi-stakeholder Working Group on Indirect Suppliers (GTFI) who has developed best practices for tackling deforestation within indirect suppliers. It is imperative that Brazilian beef companies now implement this guidance. The Cattle Agreement does not include explicit consideration for the Cerrado region. While compliance with the Forest Code is an important starting point, current regulation on its own is insufficient in protecting the Cerrado. For example, 80% of its native vegetation can currently be legally cleared under the current Forest Code.

Our Approach

All our fresh beef sold in our Tesco UK retail stores comes from the UK or the Republic of Ireland.  

Until 2018, we did source Tesco UK Own Brand corned beef from one supplier in Brazil but our product only represented a small proportion of the supplier’s business overall. Therefore, with little leverage to change practices with this supplier and meet our 2020 zero deforestation target, we decided to switch our corned beef sourcing to Europe for both our Tesco Own Brand and also for supplier branded corned beef. We have also ensured that we do not sell any Brazilian beef products in our international retail stores as well.  

Progress within the Brazilian cattle industry must be accelerated to decouple ranching from deforestation through improved land-use planning and increased efficiency.