The Beef Industry and Deforestation

What do hamburgers and chainsaws have in common? Both cause massive deforestation of tropical rainforests across the world. The production of beef is without question the biggest cause of deforestation in the Amazon, with figures ranging from 65 to 70 percent of all deforestation in the area from 2000 to 2005. While more recent figures from 2014 show that overall deforestation is down, the percentages have stayed fairly constant, showing that beef is still the primary reason for cutting down the forest. However these numbers account only for the areas cleared for the creation of pastures, and they fail to include the food being produced for cattle consumption.

The Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies stipulates that Brazil alone has 24 to 25 million hectares devoted to the production of soy, 80 percent of which would end up as animal feed. These numbers all contribute to the consensus that the primary reason for rainforest deforestation in the Amazon can be attributed to the beef industry. It then stands that the quickest way to end the massive deforestation in the Amazon would be to decrease demand for Brazilian beef. However that seems to be a far off notion, as worldwide demand for beef has only been increasing, which has in part led to Brazil’s investment into its cattle industry.

How can people around the world help in saving the rainforest? The easiest answer is to cut down on the consumption of beef. Even the United States, which used to produce most if not all of its own beef is expected to begin importing Brazilian beef in 2016.  And this is more common in countries such as Russia which imports 321,058 tonnes of Brazilian beef annually and Hong Kong and Venezuela which each import around 260,242 tonnes and 165,545 tonnes respectively. 

Now I’m not arguing that anyone has to suddenly change a huge part of their diet and swear of eating beef entirely, but maybe instead of eating two or three meals with beef in a week, you could just eat one. If everyone ate half as much beef, replacing it with chicken (which has a much smaller environmental impact and doesn’t create tons of methane) or fruits, grains or vegetables, rainforest deforestation would decrease substantially as Brazil and other such beef exporting countries will stop focusing on a less profitable beef industry.

Of course cutting down on beef consumption alone won’t end rainforest deforestation, but seeing as more than three fourths of the Amazon rainforests are being cut down almost exclusively for something that everyone could easily eat a little less of, it seems like our responsibility to the world to do so.

If it seems like too much of an inconvenience to cut down on your personal beef consumption, try thinking about it in a different context. If your doctor told you that you were gaining weight and the biggest reason by far was because you were eating beef and you could lose weight simply by reducing beef intake from your diet, most people would listen. As scientists around the world come to a consensus that deforestation and cattle-produced methane are huge contributing factors to global warming which in turn has created environmental catastrophes, why don’t we listen to them and skip the steak every once in awhile?

Works Cited

Bruha, Patrick. “Countries That Import Meat from Brazil.” The Brazil Business. N.p., 30 Apr. 2015. Web. 25 July 2016.

Butler, Rhett. “Amazon Destruction.” N.p., 23 Jan. 2016. Web. 25 July 2016.

Sarma, Priyaksh. “Beef Production Is Killing the Amazon Rainforest.” One Green Planet. N.p., 21 Mar. 2014. Web. 25 July 2016.

“Yale University.” Soy Agriculture in the Amazon Basin. Yale University, n.d. Web. 25 July 2016.