Chocolate Industry

Cadbury chocolate and anchor butter among UK dairy products linked to deforestation in Brazil

ITV News correspondent Rupert Evelyn reports on daily products linked to deforestation in Brazil

These are Britain’s best-known dairy brands that live inside our refrigerators.

Cadbury Chocolate, Cathedral City Cheddar, Anchor Butter, Country Life Butter, Clover Dairy Spread, Davidstow Cheddar, Arla’s Cravendale Milk and Asda’s Farmers Milk – all proudly wear their British agricultural credentials, and we consume them in large quantity.

But an investigation by ITV News, the Bureau of Investigative Journalism and Greenpeace Unearthed has linked them to the destruction of large swathes of Brazilian forest by soybeans – a high protein dietary supplement for livestock.

Deforestation in the Cerrado region in Brazil. Credit: ITV News

The Cerrado in Brazil is the most biodiverse savannah in the world. Rich in species and a valuable carbon dioxide-absorbing forest, it is burned and felled to grow soybeans.

We can reveal that soybeans from deforested land are mixed with certified beans and ultimately fed to dairy cattle in the UK. Their milk is often found in the dairy products we know and love.

And although our survey identified the familiar names above, there could be a lot more British dairy products linked to deforestation in Brazil.

Anna Jones of Greenpeace explains the global impact Cerrado deforestation could have

“People are not really aware that their cheese contains deforestation,” says Anna Jones of Greenpeace UK.“The reason this is important is that these forests that have been destroyed are of critical importance to our climate and to the health of the planet. If we don’t have these forests, then our climate will fall into a kind of chaos.

The UK imports around 2.6 million tonnes of soybeans for animal feed each year, the weight of more than 5,000 jumbo jets.

Almost 30% come from Brazil, according to EFECA, part of Cerrado.

Over the years, more than half of the original Cerrado forest has been cleared for agriculture. Every three months, it loses an area of ​​forest the size of London, according to WWF.

Our investigation revealed that Cargill, one of the world’s largest food conglomerates, sources soybeans from recently deforested farms in Cerrado. The US company Cargill supplies soybeans to some of the UK’s largest feed companies. Dairy farmers think they are buying sustainable sour soybeans, but our survey suggests otherwise.

The Cerrado in Brazil is the most biodiverse savannah in the world. Credit: ITV News

About 2% of livestock feed contains soy and although this figure is low, the impact is high, allowing cows to increase their milk yields.

Fifth generation Cornish dairy farmer James Warren feeds his award-winning herd a blend of around 1.4% soy. He told us that sustainability was his top priority, but taking soy out of the equation comes at a cost: “It’s a very high source of protein. The soybeans help you produce milk as economically as possible, so we are ruled by the price, and that’s the price the supermarkets are willing to pay us for it, ”he said.

“We have to produce the milk to support our businesses, to stay in the industry, as economically as possible.”

James fears his diet is linked to logging overseas, but believes the responsibility does not lie solely with UK dairy farmers.

He said: “I love the countryside. As farmers we work in the countryside and we don’t want to see deforestation from any part of the world. So it would be a concern for us. We want to be part of the solution, we want to work with the public, and we want the public to buy our products.

James thinks supermarkets are among those who can do more to prevent deforestation

“Deforestation – it’s not sustainable. And sustainability is what I want, it’s what everyone wants, but that means if we work together and change, this is the way to go. However, everyone from the source to the supermarkets to the consumer needs to work together. “Deforestation in the Cerrado extends far beyond illegal activities. 21 hectares of vegetation were lost every day in the region last year, according to Mapbiomas, the size of 20 international rugby pitches. Private landowners in Brazil are still legally allowed to destroy forests for agriculture.

Dr Marta Giannichi from the Brazilian Ministry of Environment told me that she had no problem with this because it was legal:“The forest code allows rural landowners to remove a certain amount of vegetation… this happens in areas where they are allowed to occur. This is my point.“So basically because it’s the law you have no problem with that?” ” I asked.“Yes,” replied Dr Giannichi.

Dr Marta Giannichi from Brazil’s Environment Ministry tells ITV News why she has no problem with private landowners destroying forests for agriculture

All of the companies involved in our survey point to their use of certification to ensure sustainability. But as our research reveals, uncertified soy enters the diet, creating questions in the supply chain.Cargill told ITV News, “We take this type of grievance against a supplier very seriously… ..If violations are found in an area, we will take immediate action in accordance with our soybean grievance process. Cargill has worked tirelessly to build a more sustainable soybean supply chain ”.

Arla Foods, who makes Anchor Butter, Cravendale Milk and ASDA Farmers Milk, told ITV News: “Both Arla and the dairy farmers who own our cooperative are taking steps to manage our use of soy responsibly. Since 2014, we have purchased RTRS credits to cover the use of soybeans in feed on Arla owners’ farms and in ingredients that are not already certified.

Cattle eating feed containing soy.

Saputo, which makes Cathedral City Cheddar, Country Life Butter, Clover Dairy Spread, and Davidstow Cheddar, said: soybean buying policy. They add that they have bought credits to support producers who grow soy responsibly.Asda, whose milk is supplied by Arla, said: “We understand the importance of sustainable soybeans to our customers and we are committed to reducing food production linked to deforestation. The soybean supply chain can be extremely complex and we are working with our suppliers on a plan to ensure that by 2025 all of our soybeans are physically certified.

Mondelez, owner of Cadbury, said: “Eliminating deforestation is essential to protect the local ecosystems that farmers need to produce sustainable raw materials. “As part of our commitment to tackle deforestation, we have made it clear that we expect all of our UK dairy suppliers to work with us and contractually commit to ensuring that they source 100 food. % without deforestation by 2023. “As for the supermarkets that stock these products, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said it has “called on the Brazilian government to stop Amazon deforestation for soybean production and work with other stakeholders to ensure that soybean sources meet customer expectations in terms of sustainability.

“In addition, the BRC and its members are calling on the UK government to introduce mandatory due diligence into the Environment Bill to tackle deforestation and related human rights.”Dairy products are at the heart of our food chain with dairy production the diving force. However, with cows fed a diet linked to deforestation, we eat in the planet-saving forest just to meet the human need for food.

Additional reporting by Philip Sime, ITV News and Andrew Wasley and Elisângela Mendonça of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.