The Brazilian way

Animal welfare, quality & traceability

Animal welfare, quality, and traceability are the basis of Brazilian livestock farming. These values are essential to the country’s economy and to the reliability of our meat, which is known worldwide. Brazil is currently one of the world’s leading exporters of meat products, and the biggest exporter of poultry and beef. We strictly apply the highest international protocols, whether from intergovernmental bodies or relevant NGOs.

We actively seek advice from recognized organizations that promote animal welfare standards (e.g. UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s Ethology and Animal Ecology Research Group and the World Organization for Animal Health – OIE), and we work in close collaboration with major trading partners such as the European Union (EU) to exchange best practices.

We also invest in comprehensive education and outreach across the sector to strengthen welfare, quality, and traceability. The country has a zero-tolerance attitude related to breaches of standards and regularly inspects production and processing facilities. A technical committee from the Brazilian Agriculture Ministry was established in 2017 to oversee compliance across the food production supply chains and to promote better livestock welfare.

Combined to this is the fact that Brazil’s livestock live in harmony with their environment and receive excellent nutrition. We are internationally acknowledged for promoting great animal husbandry, health, and welfare.

Benefitting from Brazil’s natural environment

Brazil’s tropical climate ensures its livestock benefit from an abundance of natural light and year-round warm temperatures[3]. This has implicit benefits for animal welfare. For example, poultry farmers can rely on completely natural ventilation in chicken houses. This not only removes excess heat, moisture, dust and odours, but also helps dilute and expel airborne disease organisms.

Cows and bulls in Brazil

It means that cattle can pasture outdoors all year round. Allowing cattle to graze freely around the year respects their natural behaviour and actively promotes their health and welfare. It also means that they are not packed in together for several months of the year in the dark sheds of the intensive farming practices common in some other jurisdictions. This significantly reduces the risk, incidence and propagation of disease and infections amongst Brazil’s cattle herd, such as lameness, hoof problems, worms, bluetongue, TB, mastitis and metritis[4]. Cattle pasturing in the integrated livestock-forestry systems which are increasingly expanding across the country benefit from the shade which reduces the ambient temperature by up to 5ºC, which is excellent for the animal’s thermal comfort and wellbeing[5].

Brazil’s leadership in poultry and beef production and exportation is based on over 40 years of research which maximised the potential of Brazil’s inherent natural advantages. Our researchers have invested significantly in genetic selection and nutritional improvement. We have specifically focused on breeding cattle that are resistant to the local diseases, pests and warm climates, and on the adaptation of global animal welfare practices to local conditions. In fact, the body of research in this direction has grown eight times in the past two decades.[6]

70% of chicken exports come from smallholding farms with integrated slaughterhouses. This is better for chickens’ welfare as it minimises the transportation of live animals.

We also look to our trading partners to ensure that we are on par with the highest international standards. In 2013 Brazil signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the EU and established a technical working group to facilitate meat trade and monitor quality standards. Local authorities, regulators, experts and NGOs meet regularly under the MoU to exchange best practices and information. Furthermore, under the 2014 EU – Brazil Sectoral Dialogue Facility, the EU and Brazil define technical guidelines that are disseminated by Brazil’s technical committee on animal welfare – from strategies on the implementation of EU regulations to other norms such as on animal transport, humane slaughter and gestation systems. This framework has been extremely successful in ensuring that Brazilian farmers implement innovative good husbandry techniques. A concrete example of some of the changes brought about by the framework is Brazil’s largest producer of pork committing to phasing out the of gestation crates by 2026.[7]

Thanks to this international cooperation as well as the decade-long partnership with the World Animal Protection (WAP) focused on training programmes, attention to animal welfare has become a fundamental part of animal farming.

All these efforts and Brazil’s natural advantages have made animal welfare a core part of Brazilian meat production. That’s why for example the Business Benchmark on Farm Animal Welfare supported by the NGOs Compassion in World Farming and WAP ranked two of Brazil’s largest poultry producers among the top performers in terms of integrating animal welfare practices into their business strategies.

New technologies help to advance animal welfare. Embrapa, the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, has developed precision farming methods that monitor animals’ behaviour. It is now possible to collect information about cattle’s movement, idleness and rumination from the cattle’s tags connected with sensors. The data can be accessed remotely by individual producers and provide insights into animals’ health and welfare. In order to make the equipment work in pasture areas, including in ICLFS, Embrapa has installed energy-powered antennas.

Quality meat

Animal welfare is closely linked to quality. A disease-free environment and good sanitary practices not only ensure animals’ wellbeing, but also the quality and safety of the meat.

Brazil applies internationally-recognised rules and standards, including those established by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) and the UN’s World Health Organisation (WHO) and Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). Standards in poultry are ensured by regular inspections of the production process by Brazil’s agriculture ministry as well as the inspection agencies of several of Brazil’s trading partners. Animal health data is collected by the agriculture ministry through 27 State Animal Health Agencies. Every six months Brazil submits its data to the OIE, Zoosanitary Reports on the occurrence of diseases in the country. In the past two decades, disease outbreaks across farm animals has declined significantly.[8]

Brazilian meat

Quick facts:

  • Over 1000 visits from sanitary authorities and private inspectors oversee the sanitary compliance in poultry sites (ABPA).
  • There has never been a case of bird flu in Brazil and the country is free of Newcastle disease (OIE).
  • Brazilian beef is 88% is grass-fed beef. This makes Brazil a certified producer of green grazing cattle roaming in unconfined spaces.
  • Brazilian beef is 100% hormone-free.
  • Brazil successfully eradicated foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and was officially declared a country free of FMD with vaccination by the OIE in May 2018. The last case of FMD in Brazil was recorded in 2006.
  • OIE recognises Brazil as having a negligible risk of Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), unlike countries such as France and the UK that are considered as having a higher level of risk, or controlled BSE risk.

Traceability

Today livestock farmers use a dedicated platform, AgriTrace, to oversee traceability procedures and give international traders additional health information to the sanitary guarantees already offered by the Brazilian government. Originating from the Brazilian Traceability Law, AgriTrace registers the requirements by Brazil’s export markets and verifies exporters’ regulatory compliance using data about rural properties and traffic of animals. Each producer part of the platform must adhere to the rules which ensures that only high-quality meat is exported. Compliance is regularly checked by independent inspectors who use live data, geographic coordinates, photos, videos and audio, as well as 24-hour self-monitoring. Over 4,700 local agricultural health offices are responsible for the regular update of farms’ registration, proper documentation and timely vaccination. Buyers of Brazilian beef have can trace its origin using individual information about the producer. AgriTrace provides greater transparency in the commercial relations, building greater confidence in Brazil’s exported products.