This guide presents a general overview of public-private initiatives, certification, and technical traceability tools to help promote verified zero deforestation production. To ensure lasting and systemic transformation at scale, these should be integrated with moderate intensification and other ranch-level practices aimed at improving both pasture and herd productivity on existing pastures, and therefore reducing pressures to deforest additional areas. For more information on moderate intensification practices, see FURTHER READING section.
Certification—Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN)
The Sustainable Agriculture Network (SAN) Standard for Sustainable Cattle Production Systems provides a voluntary certification system for cattle ranches that are interested in improving their environmental, social, labor, and operational performance and marketing their products with the Rainforest Alliance Certified Seal. The standard, which only applies to farms where cattle have access to pasture, includes the following principles: integrated management systems, sustainable pasture management, animal welfare and carbon-footprint reduction.
Roundtables (GRSB and GTPS)
The Global Roundtable for Sustainable Beef (GRSB) developed Principles and Criteria as a means to define sustainable beef and to provide a framework for advancing continuous improvement in the global beef value chain. Using this as a guiding framework, the Brazilian Roundtable on Sustainable Livestock (GTPS) is developing country-specific standards, indicators, and common practices to be adopted by the sector, which will contribute to the development of sustainable cattle ranching Brazil. The indicators being developed by the GTPS will support continuous improvements in the sector and provide metrics for measuring progress.
There are a number of different methods that allow for the unique identification and tracking of cattle. These vary in sophistication from ear tags through to the use of RFID (radio-frequency identification) microchip technology.56 RFID tags can provide georeferenced data and biophysical information. This technology can be used to geo-reference the location of cattle and track movement across a landscape. It can also be used to optimize productivity, enabling precise monitoring of weight gain and other biophysical indicators. Once a chip is implanted in the animal, the animal’s location can be identified and information about the animal can be accessed, such as date of birth, breed, owner, health and immunization records. The use of RFID microchips can significantly improve traceability and monitoring of cattle throughout the entire production cycle, from birth to slaughter. This technology has been proven at scale in Uruguay, where all of the country’s 12 million head of cattle are electronically tagged at birth.57
Despite its advantages for both traceability and productivity, this technology can be cost-prohibitive for some producers, especially small holders, who may be unable to leverage economies of scales. Lower cost options exist, such as a readable electronic bolus,58 which contains a chip that stores information about each animal such as place of birth, and is removed upon slaughter.59
These technologies are being increasingly employed in Brazil, such as by the supermarket group Carrefour, which is using traceability systems to allow customers to identify the ranches that supply the beef they buy from Carrefour’s “Garantia de Origem” program.60
Large Brazilian meatpackers are considering the use of traceability information collected to ensure inoculation against hoof and mouth disease (an “Animal Transportation Guide” or GTA) towards ensuring that cattle have not been present on farms on government “black lists” such as for illegal deforestation, in what would be a “Green GTA”.61
The Brazilian NGO, Instituto Centro de Vida (ICV) is currently testing a system to monitor direct and indirect suppliers of livestock for deforestation and other sustainability issues. This system will be implemented in the coming months in a verified zero deforestation beef program called Novo Campo, in northern Mato Grosso state in the Brazilian Amazon. It is a pioneering, workable solution to effectively control the beef supply chain in the Amazon. All the participating ranches are checked for legal compliance, must provide details of all their suppliers and then the same checks are made of these supplying ranches (indirect suppliers.) The participating ranches are only able to sell through the Novo Campo program if all of their suppliers also adhere to these environmental criteria.
Territorial Performance System (Jurisdictional Approach)
Cattle ranching is one of the leading drivers of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, however, other drivers, such as crop production, mineral extraction, and infrastructure development projects also contribute to the loss of forests. While supply chain solutions are helping transform commodity-specific impacts, there is growing concern that a more holistic cross-commodity approach is needed to ensure safeguards for forests. Although still theoretical, a jurisdictional approach (e.g. zero deforestation zones, ZDZ and other territorial performance systems), when integrated with existing supply chain initiatives, REDD+ mechanisms, and forest governance policy may offer a unified approach that drives sustainable production across an entire jurisdiction (national, state, and/or municipal level).