Rainforest Alliance Certified Cattle
Reginaldo Bonifácio de Oliveira is a cowboy who works in western Brazil, where he tends cattle for Fazendas São Marcelo. In 2012, the four ranches owned by São Marcelo’s parent company became the world’s first Rainforest Alliance Certified™ cattle farms, leading the way for an industry in dire need of transformation.
Livestock production generates up to one-third of the global greenhouse gases that lead to climate change—primarily the result of methane emissions and the razing of forests to establish grazing pastures—and cattle ranching is the biggest driver of deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon. But at São Marcelo, cowboys like De Oliveira are redefining “business as usual” by adhering to rigorous certification criteria that reduce emissions and promote the conservation of natural resources, the humane treatment of animals and the well-being of local communities.
Supporting Ranchers and Communities
Rainforest Alliance Certified cattle farms are audited annually to help ensure that they continue to meet the program’s strict criteria, which protect those who work and live on and near the ranches. The most rural of São Marcelo’s operations provides a private school for 20 children of its employees, and the company assists public schools near its three other properties, subsidizing teacher training, donating materials to enhance the education of 10,000 children in neighboring communities and supporting an organization that helps children with special needs.
Protecting Land, Animals and Waterways
Rainforest Alliance Certified cattle farms reforest their land, treat their cows humanely and reduce their carbon footprint in a variety of ways. Fazendas São Marcelo has designated nearly 47,000 acres (19,000 hectares)—more than 60 percent of its total land—as protected area, providing habitat for wildlife and protecting their migration routes. Employees plant trees, which provide shade for the animals, shield them from the elements and keep them away from waterways used by local communities.
Cattle are fed an easily digestible mix of grass and mineral salt, complemented by organic sugarcane grown by local farmers—a diet that reduces the methane emissions that contribute to climate change. The animal-welfare practices extend to the horses used for cattle herding; ranchers are trained to minimize the risk of equine injury and reduce the total work hours of the horses.
As ranchers take the steps necessary to become Rainforest Alliance Certified, they can also boost productivity and improve quality. When cows are abused or stressed, they release stress hormones that can be detected in their meat, whereas humanely treated animals produce a better-quality product, which can earn higher prices in the marketplace. Decent wages for employees decrease staff turnover, and proper training produces an efficient workforce. As with most Rainforest Alliance Certified farms, the economic benefits of certification extend far beyond those directly employed by Fazendas São Marcelo; the spouses of ranch hands are taught crafting and other income-generating activities.