Analysis of environmental sustainability practices in the cattle supply chain: the case of a Brazilian meatpacker

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Carvalho, André Pereira de
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Purpose – The objective involving this paper is to do descriptive case study of a Brazilian meatpacker and investigate how are environmental sustainability practices managed in the analysis of cattle supply chain. The research assesses the company’s progression and choices within the development of its strategies, an examination of its policies on environmental and social demands related to the search for quality demanded by international markets. Design/methodology/approach – The paper starts with a literature review of the sustainability agenda for beef production in South America and the Sustainable Supply Chain Management (SSCM) literature on trust. It offers the background regarding the Brazilian beef supply chain, data on land-use change, and provides information of the focal company through primary and secondary data (interviews, direct observation and company’s financial and sustainability reports). Findings – Supply chain governance as regards to environmental sustainability practices, notably land-use change, plays a relevant role for exporter companies and the geospatial technology investments are key for monitoring direct cattle suppliers (first tier). Yet, the challenge for monitoring the indirect supplying farms (non-first tier), those related to initial stages of production, exposes risks for non-compliances regarding illegal land-use change and other sustainability aspects. The international market demands for beef quality and food safety mitigates the risks for sustainability non-compliances due to the intrinsic attributes provided by investments from cattle producers in genetics, nutrition, animal welfare, among others, which is not sector-wide pertinent because domestic market consumes three quarters of the total produced. Consequently, collaboration between better supply chain monitoring and sustainable intensification of agricultural production in addition to forest restoration and conservation, has got the potential to reduce deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon alongside with social development for over 20 million inhabitants. Practical implications – Brazilian beef business deals with challenges linked to the growing demands and complexity for food safety and quality standards in the international market yet there is still an enormous gap between production practices of export-oriented producers compared to the domestic market producers. Sustainability demands in addition to productivity enhancement can be a path for more compliance in the beef business, disrupting the cattle supply chain from illegal deforestation and other sustainability claims. Originality/value – The present paper outlines the relation to international market demand and sustainable non-compliances mitigation related the export-driven focal company investigated.

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