Environment Food & Health

Sustainable Living: How Your Choice of Meat Can Save the Amazon

ethical meat how to save amazon rainforest

Eco-friendly, sustainable living entails limiting your commercial actions that cause ongoing environmental or social damage. With this in mind, how often do you think about your last burger?

See, that beef had to come from somewhere, and there’s a good chance it’s from the deforestation of one of the oldest and largest rainforests on the planet—the Amazon jungle.

Beef industries and the Amazon

The Amazon rainforest is found within the borders of Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname, and Venezuela, and almost all of these have a large, thriving cattle ranching industry. How big?

Well, big enough to cause around 80 percent of the Amazon’s deforestation, according to reports from the WWF. So far, around 750,000 square kilometres of Amazon woodland has been torn up and converted for livestock agriculture; that’s an area the size of a small country. Just compare it to Chile (roughly 750,000 square kilometres), France (640,000 square kilometres), or Spain (506,000 square kilometres).

ethical eating; how to save amazon rainforest

Although the Amazon spreads over many countries, 60 percent of it lies within the borders of Brazil. The problem, as various reports confirm, is that Brazil is the largest beef exporter on the globe, and it produces an amount of beef that is only increasing.

In 1996, the country shipped $1.9 million in beef alone, and in 2004, it exported $1.9 billion, making it arguably the biggest cow farm on the planet, with as many as 190 million cattle being raised right now.

How cattle production destroys the rainforest

There are actually two different types of livestock production.

Grazing, the method Brazil and numerous other countries use, involves giving the cattle plenty of land to feed and walk. However, grazing requires open grassland, not rainforests, which is why the Amazon is being aggressively cut down and pushed back.

Intensive farming, on the other hand, retains the cattle in small, restricted spaces. Aside from the animal cruelty, it takes around 7 pounds of grain for every pound of beef produced this way. The farmland for grain would take up more space than the cattle.

The problem here is that rainforests cannot simply just grow back. While a section of the Amazon can be cleared in a matter of weeks at the quickest, New Scientist estimates it takes around 4,000 years for the land to regenerate to its former state.

This means that any area of rainforest sacrificed won’t return in our lifetime, or for many future generations afterwards. Considering that some estimates suggest the Amazon will be completely gone by the next 100 years, there is little hope for this precious woodland if things continue the way they are.

Understanding the consequences

It should come as no surprise to learn there are some very serious repercussions of deforestation. Woodlands and forests across the world are all vital for helping us live and breathe. Due to its sheer size, few of these are as important as the Amazon.

Known to environmental scientists as ‘the lungs of the earth’, the Amazon plays a vital role in keeping our atmosphere stable, replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. This means that this continued deforestation doesn’t just impair the Amazon’s benefits to the earth; it also introduces more damaging processes.

sustainable living- how to save amazon rainforest


Cattle ranching sends around 340 million tonnes of carbon into the atmosphere every year, accounting for 3.4 percent of the world’s emissions. As the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization states, beef production currently produces more greenhouse gases than vehicles release.

Understanding Brazil

Of course, Brazil is just feeding the wider global demand. It is an exporter, which means it is meeting the demands met elsewhere. According to Greenpeace, the rate of beef exports are continually increasing.

The US buys 200 million pounds of beef from Central America, but they’re not alone. Australia and Europe both have a high demand for beef, while other nations like China and Russia are rapidly converting into beef-loving cultures as well.

As demand increases, these Central America countries likewise increase their production. The Brazilian government already has plans to double its share of the market by 2018—just two short years away. All this extra cattle ranching causes numerous problems, including increased deforestation and displacement of indigenous communities.

amazon rainforests community indians

Taking action

Of course, you wouldn’t be reading this if you weren’t willing to make a change and take action. You might not be a Brazilian farmer or the owner of a big food chain, but you can still do your part as a consumer.

As a customer, you have the power to put your money in the hands that matter. The big beef corporations that buy from Central America are meeting the demands of their customers. Challenge big restaurants and purchase your own beef from local farmers, as well as those that promise responsible and sustainable farming methods.

ethical restaurant - how to save amazon rainforest

Secondly, don’t be afraid to put your voice out there. Whether it’s taking the cause to social media or having open discussions with friends, it always helps to let others know what is going on. You can also campaign directly to big companies and restaurants.

Become self-sustainable

Finally, there’s no need for you to rely on such environmentally unfriendly companies for food. In fact, you can grow your own food right in your own garden. While a cow might be a little too big, you can water your own vegetables and herbs. These are simple to grow and, once you expand into more vegetables and fruits, you will find you are able to provide a wide variety of food for yourself.

In fact, there are many environmentally-friendly activities that you can do to provide for yourself, improve your local area and generally support nature. If you can do all this, why can’t big corporations follow suite? Remember this the next time you see a beef burger on the menu.

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About the author

Tim Sparke

Tim Sparke is the CEO at 4 Pumps and for several years, he has been an active advocate of organic farming and sustainability. Asides being a specialist of water pumps, he also has a passion for writing and he writes the blog at 4 Pumps.


  • Thanks for writing an article about this topic, the world urgently need to see how exactly we’re fucking up this planet. There’s just one thing that bothers me about this, and it’s te suggestion to go from regular meat to meat from local farmers/sustainable companies. There is NO such thing as sustainable meat. The CO2 emission is the same, the amount of water used is still massive, and local farmers and grass fed cows use even MORE land than industrial farmers. True, it’s less stressful for the animal to have more space (even though its never completely cruelty and stress free), but it’s never sustainable. If we would replace all the normal farms and cows by grassfed cows, you would need to fill the entire surface of North America, Canada and Latin and South America..

  • Thanks Amber, I find it really important to point out the issues that require our urgent attention and action or it’s gonna be way too late. I believe spreading awareness is already one step we can take today for a better tomorrow!
    You’re right in saying the local production of meat emits the same amount of CO2 and takes a lot of space. But the farming methods are different, e.g. small farmers productively use manure as a natural fertilizer and they are less likely to control the environment with chemicals. Buying from them you simply support these good practices and that’s basically the sustainability I had in mind when I said you should challenge big industrial meat suppliers and buy from your local farmer.

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