Download data

The hidden deforestation in your Christmas dinner

by Alice Field

As Greenpeace’s recent video highlights, soy can be found in many kitchen staples, such as cooking oil, margarine and chocolate. But it is most commonly used as animal feed for pigs, poultry, dairy cattle and farmed fish. Which means it is likely to be hidden somewhere in your Christmas feast.

Some estimates suggest that for every 100 grams of turkey breast, there are 109 grams of hidden soy.

The growing global appetite for meat is driving soy expansion in tropical forest regions. According to WWF, 75% of the 284 million tonnes of soy produced globally in 2013/2014 was used in animal feed.

The majority of turkeys and pigs in the UK are fed on soy imported from South America. Trase, the supply chain mapping tool developed by Global Canopy in partnership with the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI), shows that for 2017, the UK’s direct imports of soy from Brazil totalled 672,900 tonnes.

This means that your roast turkey and pigs in blankets could be endangering valuable habitats and species through the clearing of tropical forests and native vegetation in Brazil’s Cerrado.

Soy is also fed to dairy cows, meaning that milk, cheese and other dairy products – including your Christmas cheese board and brandy butter – may also contain deforestation.

Of course, companies can take steps to ensure they are not sourcing products that contain a deforestation-risk. Forest 500 annually assesses the commitments made by companies to prevent deforestation in their supply chains – and scores companies on reported progress.

While the 2018 Forest 500 report found that no companies can guarantee their supplies are deforestation free, some supermarkets performed better than others. TescoSainsbury’sMorrisons, Aldi and Lidl owner the Schwarz Group scored just two out of five for their own brand products, while Asda Wal-mart scored three out of five.

And some branded products were even worse. Companies such as Savencia, which sells Coeur de Lion and Saint Agur cheese, scored just one out of five. Lactalis, which owns the Président cheese brand, scores zero – it showed no evidence of any commitment to remove deforestation from its supply chains.

So how to make Christmas Dinner deforestation-free?

Cooking up a deforestation-free Christmas dinner is harder than you might imagine. A lack of transparency along supply chains and little information about the origin of our food means it is currently near impossible to ensure that the food on our plates eating has not contributed to deforestation.

And of course, it’s not just over the Christmas season that you may unwittingly be consuming embedded soy. In Europe, the average consumer can get through around 61kg of soy a year, embedded in meat, eggs, milk and cheese.

Our Forest 500 assessment shows that companies are not doing enough to address this problem, but some companies are doing more than others, working for example with the Soy Buyers Coalition to find ways to tackle deforestation linked to soy production.

So if you can’t bear the thought of Christmas dinner without the turkey and the trimmings, then why not instead send a message to the supermarkets and brands you buy from on to say you want your products to be deforestation-free by next year. And check out how well your favourite brands score in the next Forest 500 assessment – coming soon.

Photo by SJ Baren on Unsplash