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Viva, Carbon Neutral Beef

Marfrig, the second largest beef producer in the world, claims to have developed Brazil's first carbon neutral beef products. And yet as company Marfrig has a methane emissions footprint that rivals Australia's entire livestock methane emissions.

Marfrig’s greenhouse gas emissions are roughly 102.6 million tonnes of CO2 equivalent per year. In 2020, the company launched the brand Viva which sells beef under the label of carbon-neutral. The Carbon Neutral Meat (CCN) certification, which Marfrig use, was developed in collaboration with Embrapa (the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) and is granted for cattle raised in silvopastoral (livestock-forest) or agrosilvipastoril (crop-livestock-forest, ILPF) integration systems, or in other words, farms with trees.

Marfrig claim on their website for Viva beef that “greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere have been neutralized, because the cattle are raised on a landscape of pastureland alongside eucalyptus forests, which play a major role in removing methane emitted by the animals into the environment, and also in fixing carbon dioxide (CO2) in the tree trunks” 

If you think this sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. Natural carbon sequestration is very difficult to measure, and no figures are provided to support their claim. Add in that cows actually emit methane which cannot be absorbed by trees, and that in some instances, high levels of methane – which could occur on big cattle farms – could in fact inhibit trees from absorbing carbon, and it’s impossible to see how Marfrig’s claim can stand up. 

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