Focus: Corporate Responsibility - Greenpeace links forest loss to Chicken McNuggets

Anita Pati,

'Roosters' invade burger chain's outlets to highlight impact on rainforests of Brazilian soya bean industry.

Greenpeace activists dressed as seven-feet-tall roosters invaded McDonald's outlets earlier this month to protest against the fast-food giant's alleged links to Amazonian rainforest destruction.

The action, in which the 'birds' chained themselves to chairs, was timed to coincide with the launch of an international campaign against the burger chain and followed a six-year undercover investigation into the Brazilian soya bean industry. Greenpeace used aerial surveillance, satellite images, government documentation and undercover monitoring to gather information for its new report, Eating Up the Amazon.

The report traced the 7,000km supplier route from some of the world's largest food-producing companies and commodity traders in Brazil, through export chains, Liverpool docks and British food processing plants, to Chicken McNuggets.

According to the campaigning group, US agribusiness titan Cargill, which operates a major soya bean export industry from the Amazon region, has been clearing virgin Amazonian rainforest to farm soya. This is then shipped through Cargill's crushing plant in Liverpool and distributed to Cargill-owned chicken company Sun Valley in Hereford to produce feed for chickens that end up in McDonald's branches across the UK and Europe.

Last year, McDonald's made Cargill its Supplier of the Year because of its "commitment to diversity".

"This is the first time this level of investigation has gone into how European chicken feed and Chicken McNuggets are linked to the destruction of the Amazonian rainforests," said Patrick Venditti, senior forest campaigner at Greenpeace UK.

The report says that McDonald's was unable to verify how much of the soya it uses was from non-Amazon sources. It also claims other supermarkets are implicated in rainforest destruction: of 30 supermarket chains contacted at the beginning of the year, none differentiated between Amazon and non-Amazon soya used by their meat suppliers.

McDonald's said: "We are investigating the claim made by Greenpeace regarding non-GM soya used in chicken feed, and will review it for consistency in line with our existing policy not to source beef from recently deforested areas."

COMMENT - Evan Bowen-Jones, regional director Americas and Caribbean, Fauna & Flora International

It's depressing that chicken nuggets could be one end product of such large-scale habitat conversion, but this represents a tiny percentage of the enormous, growing demand for soya.

Although producers would argue that Brazil has the right to economic development, the potential for damaging global weather systems and exacerbating climate change seems a high price to pay for cheap chicken.

This is particularly the case when comparatively few people in Brazil benefit from an industry that pushes colonists further into the forest and uses tonnes of chemicals that run into the River Amazon.

The soya industry, logging, cattle ranching, fires and other forms of intensive agriculture threaten the viability of the Amazon and other habitats. Action is required to ensure that local and global ecosystem services are not lost to produce animal feed for livestock in Europe, but also in the US and China.

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