The Swiss multinational Nestlé buys collagen from cattle raised in deforested areas of Brazil, denounces a journalistic investigation carried out by a consortium that includes the British daily The Guardian. This protein of animal origin is used in food supplements that promise aesthetic and health benefits.
“The links between beef, soy and deforestation in Brazil are well known, but little attention has been paid to the burgeoning collagen industry, estimated to be worth around four billion dollars. [3,7 mil milhões de euros]”, reads an article in the newspaper The Guardian.
The journalists claim to have managed to trace the path taken by Brazilian collagen to the Swiss multinational Nestlé, responsible for marketing the protein under the Vital Proteins brand. The products are, they say, “a sales phenomenon” promoted by actress Jennifer Aniston, who also acts as the company’s creative director. They are for sale in different international stores and pharmacies online for amounts greater than 70 euros per kilo.
“Collagen is a protein produced by animals, and is part of the articular cartilage and skin of mammals. Thus, collagen-containing supplements are mainly obtained from livestock, and especially from cattle. In recent years, the consumption of collagen supplements has been associated by the food industry with a reduction in the signs of aging, namely with regard to the reduction of wrinkles, sagging and loss of elasticity.”, explains to PÚBLICO the pharmacist Marta Ferreira, doctoral student in pharmaceutical sciences, in a reply sent by email.
From livestock to supplements
the consortium reveals that “tens of thousands of head of cattle”, raised on properties linked to deforestation both in the amazon such as the Cerrado, “were slaughtered” in large companies in the meat sector which, in turn, are “linked to the international chain” of collagen. beyond the guardianthe consortium is made up of the following media: the British television network ITV, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism It is O Tares and the Wheat.
The investigation, which results from a partnership with the Center for the Analysis of Climate Crime, identified at least 2600 square kilometers of deforestation associated with the supply chain of two companies based in Brazil and linked to the North American Darling Ingredients. Contacted by journalists from the consortium, Darling Ingredients stated that it verifies suppliers and discards “those who do not meet the responsible supply criteria”.
“It is still not clear the exact percentage of collagen produced in Brazil and destined for Vital Proteins. What is known is that Nestlé, and its Vital Proteins brand, buy collagen from Darling Ingredients, whose company in Brazil, Rousselot, buys part of its raw material from Marfrig [o segundo maior produtor de carnes do Brasil]”, reads in the consortium article published in The Tares and the Wheat.
The journalistic consortium says that Nestlé said it will contact suppliers to find out, since the allegations made in the report do not match the commitment that the company says it has with regard to a responsible supply chain. The Swiss multinational added that it is taking the necessary measures to “ensure that by 2025 your products are free from deforestation”.
Deforestation increased in February
The investigative report was published less than a week before official information regarding deforestation in Brazil was released. The most recent space images show that the destruction of the Brazilian Amazon rainforest increased, in February, to the highest level ever recorded for the month, refers to the Reuters agency.
The official data, released this Friday, reiterate the enormous challenge that the new government will have to face in order to fulfill the campaign promises. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva took office in early January, pledging to end illegal logging after a spike in deforestation under the previous government led by Jair Bolsonaro.
“We have just left behind a government that supported deforestation,” Greenpeace Brazil spokesman Rômulo Batista told Reuters this Friday.
Data from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) show that 322 square kilometers of vegetation were destroyed in the region last month. This means an increase of 62% compared to February 2022, well above the average of 166 square kilometers in the period. It was also the highest since the beginning of the INPE data series, which began in 2015.
Reuters also mentions that, for now, the existing data are limited to indicate whether the conservation policies promised by Lula are working or not. Experts and environmental authorities have already warned that it will be necessary “years” to significantly reduce deforestation after the funding and resource cuts carried out by Bolsonaro.