JBS suppliers are producing more while using less land in response to rising concerns about deforestation in Brazil, according to company’s global chief executive, Gilberto Tomazoni.
He told a panel discussion to mark World Food Day that meat production in Brazil had tripled on a per hectare basis between 1990 and 2019. He added: “We can guarantee 100% of our direct suppliers do not deforest the Amazon.”
The world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050, Tomazoni said, citing data from FAO, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.
"Our food system is not efficient enough to produce affordable, safe, nutritious food to everyone. Our challenge to feed the world will only become greater in the future. Unfortunately, our population and the global demand for food will increase,” he told the panel.
"The only way to meet this challenge is to embrace more efficient production and harness innovation to produce more with less."
He added the company had joined forces with its “farmers, partners and suppliers to increase productivity and the quality of what we can offer to the consumer... while using a smaller area of pasture."
Technology has enabled 'a giant step' in sustainable production
Around 75% of JBS consumers are in Europe. Earlier this year, environmental campaigners pressed UK supermarkets to de-list meat suppliers owned by JBS on deforestation claims.
Tomazoni said the company was committed to investing in technology in order to fight deforestation and climate change. Initiatives include a blockchain platform to monitor direct and indirect suppliers and investment into solar energy and water and waste schemes.
JBS Brazil reused 121,000 metric tonnes of waste to generate energy, over 9% more than the previous year, he said. Over 1 million tonnes of waste generated by the company was also reused, accounting for around 50% of all waste generated.
JBS also recently launched a 1 billion-real (EUR151.6 million) fund to foster social and economic development in the Amazon.
Technology had enabled “a giant step” in the sustainable production process, he added. "We have a huge capacity to produce more without devastating anything."
Peer Ederer, scientist and director of the Global Food and Agribusiness Network, agreed technology was the solution to meeting the challenge of producing enough food to feeding a growing global population without depleting natural resources.
"We need to deploy more technology to increase efficiency of productivity,” he told the panel. “We're not short of natural resources. We have enough agricultural land, water and atmospheric resources. If we were only using the land and the water and the atmospheric resources as efficiently as we knew, we could easily feed everybody we need to now and in 30 years.”
He added that rapidly advancing improved data science had slashed its cost and availability, allowing for more meaningful insights to be generated by industry.
“We're able to monitor complete value chains all the way back to their original source,” he said. “If we can monitor complete value chains from the tils in Europe all the way all the way back to the plot of land somewhere in Brazil, the Congo or Indonesia That monitoring is central to ensuring the legal and ethical frameworks that we demand of food system is being maintained.
“By 2025 at the latest there is no excuse for any private sector company that they cannot guarantee legality and ethical behaviour of their value chain. If they haven’t done their homework over the next couple of years and cannot make a solid guarantee of that then they have not used the right technologies.”
Agriculture will be a ‘solution not the problem’
Dr Lesly Mitchell, Associate Director for Sustainable Nutrition at Forum for the Future and who has a background of working in sustainable livestock, called for business strategies to embrace regenerative agricultural practices. "We are at a fork in the road and we have to decide which direction we go forward," she told the panel.
“Business as usual cannot be the solution to the future. We need to look at ways that are going to restore our natural resources and make the best of what we have within our food systems. One area where i see incredible wins in Brazil Africa and South East Asia is by looking regenerative practices that put those goals of environmental sustainability, restoration, climate resilience, animal welfare, livelihoods and productivity together to look for those win wins."
Ederer agreed: "Regenerative agriculture is a tremendous area of improvement. I believe agriculture will turn up to become the major solution rather than being a problem to many of our global resource issues, whether that's climate, deforestation, or water shortages."