Britain’s ‘chicken boom’ is destroying South America’s forests, Greenpeace warns

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BRITAIN’S love of chicken nuggets is fuelling the destruction of South America’s rainforests.

That’s according to a bombshell new Greenpeace report, which argues that vast swathes of forest are being cleared on the continent to grow food for the UK’s booming poultry farms.

Fast food consumption pictured in the UK
Greenpeace

More and more shoppers are choosing to buy chicken over red meat on health and environmental grounds, the report, published Tuesday, claims.

However, those who make the switch are unwittingly helping to wipe out wildlife across the Atlantic.

“For too long the impact on our planet of growing crops for UK chicken feed have been overlooked,” Greenpeace UK forest campaigner Chiara Vitali said.

“A straight swap from beef to chicken effectively amounts to outsourcing emissions of our meat consumption from the UK to South America.”

Illegal deforestation is a big problem in Brazil and poses a threat to the Amazon rainforest
Greenpeace

Britain imports over three million tonnes of soya every year from Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay to feed factory farmed animals – mostly chickens.

Over one billion chickens are killed in the UK every year, most of which are intensively farmed, a practice which relies on soya-based feed.

Previous research has shown that meeting Britain’s annual demand for soya requires 1.4million hectares of land – an area larger than Northern Ireland.

Large swathes of rainforest in South America are being destroyed to grow the crop.

To investigate how UK shops get their soya, Greenpeace surveyed 23 leading food brands in Britain about their chicken sales and soya usage.

Companies contacted by the charity included supermarkets, fast food outlets and other restaurant chains.

Researchers found that leading supermarkets are buying their soya from commodity giants like Archer Daniels Midland (ADM), Bunge and Cargill.

All four have been involved in the destruction of forests or other habitats in the Brazilian Cerrado, the world’s most wildlife-rich savannah, according to the report.

The worst offenders were Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s, who together use more than one million tonnes of soya per year.

Tesco alone admitted to using one sixth of the UK’s soya – 99 per cent of it for animal feed.

Supermarkets' soya footprint

Here are the Greenpeace figures in tonnes per year…

1) Tesco – 516,000T

2) Morrisons – 265,308T

3) Sainsbury’s – 245,366T

4) Asda – 245,281T

5) Aldi – 170,000T

6) Lidl – 128,291T

7) Co-op – 78,000T

8) Marks and Spencer – 71,000T

9) Waitrose – 62,005T

10) Iceland – 62,000T

Tesco, Morrisons and Sainsbury’s did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

None of the companies surveyed could guarantee that the soya they farmed for meat production was deforestation free.

Some, like McDonald’s, Burger King and Subway, refused to disclose their soya use or meat sales altogether.

Forest campaigner Chiara called on High street giants like Tesco and Sainsbury’s to push consumers away from chicken and towards plant-based diets.

“Consumers cutting red meat are clearly trying to do the right thing for the right reasons,” she said.

“But supermarkets and fast food restaurants are keeping them in the dark when it comes to the precious forests being destroyed to feed most of the chicken they sell.

“What’s worse, instead of tackling the problem, they’re adding to it by pushing customers to buy more.”

Retail groups said supermarkets were working with the Brazilian government to put a stop to illegal deforestation.

“Retailers are working together to tackle deforestation and drive greater uptake of certified sustainable soya in their supply chains,” said Leah Riley Brown, Sustainability Policy Advisor at the British Retail Consortium.

“The BRC has publicly called on the Brazilian Government to stop Amazon deforestation for soy production and are working with other stakeholders to ensure soya sources meet customer expectations on sustainability.”


In other news, four “stinky” chicken eggs from Roman-era Britain was found in ancient well in Buckinghamshire last month.

Future civilisations will dig up chicken bones to date modern life in Britain, according to archaeologists.

And, these heartbreaking photos reveal the true scale of deforestation in the Amazon.

Do you think Britain has a chicken problem? Let us know in the comments!


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