A group of four ranches in Brazil recently became the first in the world to earn Rainforest Alliance certification for sustainable cattle production. The ranches, all belonging to the group Fazendas São Marcelo, met a rigorous set of standards that promote the humane treatment of livestock, the conservation of natural resources and the rights and well-being of workers. The standards were developed by the Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) in response to the vast destruction of rainforest that results from cattle farming, IMAFLORA -- the SAN representative in Brazil -- carried out the certification.
 
“Agricultural conversion for cattle production is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon,” says Tensie Whelan, president of the Rainforest Alliance. “Fazendas São Marcelo’s achievement sets a shining example to ranchers across Latin America, demonstrating that cattle, wildlife and the environment can coexist.”
 
Located in the Mato Grosso state in western Brazil, the ranches cover a total area of 79,000 acres including a 32,000-acre reserve in the Amazon. This protected area helps to buffer natural forests and provide shelter and migratory habitat for wildlife. Altogether, about 60,000 cattle graze on the ranches sustainably managed pastures.

In addition to protecting wildlife habitat, the certified ranches ensure that the animals are well-treated and provided with tree-covered pastures, which shield them from high temperatures, wind and rain. On-farm medical treatment and vaccination stations help minimize stress on the animals. Further, because livestock are responsible for 18% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, Fazendas São Marcelo provides its herd with an easily digestible, natural diet to reduce methane emissions.

Fazendas Sao Marcelo’s care extends to its workforce and their families. Since the majority of ranch workers are male, training is provided to worker wives on crafts and artisanal cooking, allowing opportunities for economic advancement. The most rural of the four certified farms provides a private school for 20 resident children, and the company supports the public schools near its other properties, subsidizing teacher training to enhance education for the 10,000 schoolchildren in neighboring communities.
 
According to Arnaldo Eijsink, CEO of Grupo JD -- which manages the enterprise -- the standards support the company’s values and management approach, helping it add value to its products, stay ahead of trends, and attract buyers. Grupo JD also maintains Rainforest Alliance Certified vineyards.
 
“Fazendas São Marcelo’s certification breaks a paradigm and shows that large-scale cattle production can be carried out in accordance with good pasture management, the humane treatment of animals, the conservation of natural resources and respect for workers and communities,” said Luís Fernando Guedes Pinto, manager of agriculture certification at IMAFLORA, the SAN representative in Brazil who carried out the certification.

Editor’s Note: A research study called “Clearing the Air” was conducted by author and well-known climatologist Frank Mitloehner, who found that the “Livestock’s Long Shadow” statement that livestock production is responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions – more than the global transportation sector – is a flawed and inaccurate comparison that did not use equivalent methods of analysis. This claim, said Mitloehner, is “based on inappropriate or inaccurate scaling of predictions.” In the U.S., 2.8% of all greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to livestock production, compared to 26% from transportation, according to an U.S. Environmental Protection Agency study cited by Mitloehner (“Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2007”).