Tracking Illicit Brazilian Beef from the Amazon to Your Burger

Journalist Marcel Gomes has traced beef in supermarkets and fast food restaurants in the U.S. and Europe to Brazilian ranches on illegally cleared land. In an e360 interview, he talks about the challenges of documenting the supply chains and getting companies to clean them up.

May 9th, 2024

Marcel Gomes (center) with colleagues at Repórter Brasil’s offices in São Paulo. GOLDMAN ENVIRONMENTAL PRIZE

Investigative journalism can be a very deep dive. By the end of his probe into the supply chain of JBS, the world’s largest meat processing and packing company, Marcel Gomes reckons he and his team at the São Paulo-based nonprofit Repórter Brasil knew more about the origins of the beef it supplies from the Amazon to the world’s hamburger chains and supermarkets than the company itself.

With grassroots support from labor unions and Indigenous communities, he had mapped the complex networks of cattle farms responsible for illegal deforestation. He then tracked the often-illicit beef through JBS’s slaughterhouses and packing plants to the freezers, shelves, and customer trays of retail outlets and fast-food restaurants around the world. When his sleuths were done, the fingerprints of forest destruction were plain to see. Six of Europe’s biggest retail chains reacted by halting purchases of JBS beef.

That investigation just won Gomes, 45, a Goldman Environment Prize. But sadly, he says in an interview with Yale Environment 360, when he went to San Francisco last month to pick up the prize, stores there still had tainted beef on their shelves.

Read the full article here on Yale Environment 360.