China’s taste for meat is reshaping Brazil’s economy—and its environment

This is a soybean farm in Brazil. And this is a meat market in China. These two places have everything to do with
each other. The meat sold at Sanyuanli Market in Beijing
comes from Chinese farms. The animals on those farms eat soybeans,
and most of those come from one place: Brazil. –Everything you see here will soon be on
the dining tables of Chinese consumers. But, not in the form of soybeans. As incomes have risen in China, so has meat
consumption. The economies of Brazil, Argentina and others
have shifted to meet that demand, putting more emphasis than ever on soybeans. It shows how Chinese consumers can reshape
entire economies, even large ones. But in the long run, this could do more harm
than good. We’re traveling around the world to find
out how China is changing… basically everything. This week, agriculture. I’m Nikhil Sonnad reporting for Quartz. You’re watching Because China. This is Márcio Binotti, he runs a company
that sells soybean seeds to growers. At his facility, the beans are husked… dried…
sorted… and bagged up. –So, I’m climbing this wall of soybeans on
a very unsafe ladder. Each one of these bags contains about six
million soybean seeds, which we’re told can produce
about 72 tons of soybeans. From here, the beans find their way back into
the ground, and from there, they go abroad. Nearly all the soybeans Brazil grows are exported,
and they overwhelmingly go to China. China is the world’s largest importer of
soybeans, buying $38 billion-worth in 2018, almost 20 times more than the next-highest
importer. Brazil is by far the biggest source of those
beans, accounting for over 75%. That’s great news in particular for Brazil’s
biggest farms, since the top 1.5% of rural landowners control over half of the country’s agricultural land. Why so much soy? For one thing, it’s illegal in China to
grow genetically modified soybeans, so Brazil’s GMO beans are cheaper. Plus, China used to get a lot from the US,
but the trade war between those two countries has put huge tariffs on soybeans, leading
American exports to decline. So Brazil is more important than ever. That’s why, at this trade fair held just
outside Brasilia, every aspect of the soybean industry is on display. Brazil has plenty of land suitable for growing
soybeans. But to keep up with Chinese demand, it needs
even more. And increasingly, it’s finding it underneath
Brazil’s forests. –We are seeing that the deforestation increased
a lot in the past five years. Isabelle Figueiredo is an ecologist at an
NGO based in Brasilia that works on conservation and sustainability. Brazil’s most famous forest is the Amazon, here. This map was created by the MapBiomas initiative, which uses satellite imagery to track deforestation. The red dots here represent parts of the Amazon
that, since 1985, have been turned from forest, into agriculture. The problem goes well beyond the rainforest. Isabelle’s work focuses on the Cerrado,
a vast savannah in central Brazil, the most biodiverse in the world and one-fourth of
the country’s total land area. Deforestation is happening there even faster
than in the Amazon. Over half of the forests in this part of Brazil
are gone. This is what it looks like now. This is what the area we filmed looked like
from overhead in 1984, and here it is in 2016. And here’s what Cerrado deforestation looks like
on a larger scale—it’s covered in red dots. This affects more than just forests and the
animals that live in them—it affects people, too. When forests are destroyed, they absorb less
carbon dioxide, accelerating climate change and affecting weather in faraway countries. And within Brazil, the Cerrado is home to
many indigenous groups. Valdemilso Ariabo is the leader of Balatipone
People, an indigenous group that lives in the state of Mato Grosso,
where large amounts of forest is being cleared to make room for farms. He has come to Brasilia to meet with other
indigenous leaders and discuss how they can protect their lands. And there’s a new sense of urgency. He’s referring to the 2018 election of Jair
Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president. Bolsonaro has already loosened restrictions
on protected lands, and has referred to indigenous people living on them as “zoo animals.” This strong stance against indigenous people
has emboldened attackers who forcibly take their lands and sell them to farmers. In the past, some of these attacks
have ended in deaths. –The farms, they are coming into the valleys and destroying houses. They are killing people to make people to leave the areas that they are occupying traditionally. Numbers of such deaths—which often happen
deep in the rainforest—are hard to come by. But in 2017, even before Bolsonaro was elected,
at least 70 were killed in “land conflicts.” His administration says it doesn’t support violence. But they do argue that there is an economic reason for turning forest into farmland. –In general, people see that, for us to
have income, we need to deforest to clear and then plant some commodity. There is some truth to that. Brazil’s agribusiness sector, in which soybeans
are the most important product, created 19 million jobs in 2015. People in Brazil’s soybean-growing areas
tend to be better educated and healthier. But those economic gains are not equally distributed. One study found that areas with soy production
have higher levels of income inequality. What’s more, Brazil’s emphasis on exporting soybeans and other commodities is probably not even good for the
economy in the long run. –Stronger economies tend to be those that
are diversified. Margaret Myers is director of the Asia and
Latin America Program at The Dialogue, a think-tank based in Washington, DC. –And, increasingly, there’s this reliance on
soy in particular but also other primary commodities. It is seen as a problematic feature of the
Brazilian economy. Brazil’s economy has long relied on commodity
exports—beginning with sugar and coffee, later iron ore and oil, and now soybeans. The hope has been that money from commodities
could be used to move toward a more sophisticated economy, with value-added exports and services,
but many fear that Bolsonaro’s close connections with the agribusiness sector means he will
instead stick with the old model. That’s risky for a few reasons. For one, it exposes Brazil to the risks of
changes in prices and demand. Environmental damage poses another long-term
risk to the economy. When farmers clear the diverse Cerrado, and
plant a single crop, year after year, the soil eventually fails to grow that crop effectively. The rates of “monocropping,” as it’s
called, are higher in Brazil than in other places. And Isabel says that yields from soy farms
have already been falling. –How sustainable is it to take this approach
to the economy? No sustainability at all. –The Chinese consumer is driving so much in the emergence of new industries across the globe. This is not just the case in soy production
and in agriculture but really across the board. The sheer scale of Chinese consumer demand
has reshaped Brazil’s economy, politics, and even its environment. It’s not just Brazil: developing countries
around the world are staking their futures on figuring out what China’s increasingly
wealthy population wants to buy. The pull of China is stronger than ever—but
if Brazil, and countries like it, want to succeed in the long term,
they’ll have to push, too, to create the future they want, not the one China needs.

56 thoughts on “China’s taste for meat is reshaping Brazil’s economy—and its environment

  1. Undeniable that all superpowers will change the globe, and rising meat consumption is something all rapidly developing and developed countries are responsible for; how to produce meat sustainably is the next big hurdle

    People will only be incentivized to protect the environment if they can gain from it too

  2. The US consumers want some cheap products in Walmart, so Chinese manufacturers produce them in the cheapest way with heavy pollution. Hence, the US is the reason why China pollute their environment. 😂 I got it.

  3. Why in this videos so many big-nose jewish people and washington DC think tanks express their one-sided opinion? Also, its not because of China, its because of the Trade war started by US.

  4. The reason why we colonized the moon was to farm livestock on it for when India starts demanding meat in fifteen years.

  5. China is to blame because they buy things? US was buying from all the world countries for decades, also doing a lot of damage, but no one blamed US for simply "buying stuff" from third countries. This is some really dispicable hypocrisy level.

  6. some Washington DC think tank payed for this video, because they want to craft the multi-faceted anti-Chinese narrative in the media. They want to find as many reasons to push CHINA BAD narrative into people's mind, so that even if China invest into countries or buys their products, supporting the indigineous economy in the process – it should be percieved with negativity and hatred. This is the goal of the current Anti-Chines information campaign.

  7. I feels like westerners are compeletely ignoring the facts that Chinese are human, interesting. Cause Chinese will realize it and make it reverse.

  8. Every meat is extremely expensive in Brazil now because of China
    That's suuuuper fair for the poor part of the population…

  9. The double standards here are disgusting. Blaming a country for its increasing quality of life? As if Chinese people don't deserve to live more and more like Westerners. This is mentally sick and honestly racist.

  10. We will never learn from history in my country El Salvador Coffee was the commodity represented 90% of the economy and export until 88 coffee plantation owner wrote the laws and did everything they could to avoid other industries to develop then suddenly the price of coffee went down with the whole economy that happened cause we never diversify and we didn't even tax them properly. Until recently since the 90 the economy is moving away from coffee this can happen to any country look at Venezuela same History but Saudi Arabia is moving to a diversify portafolio si they won't depend totally on oil.

  11. I love how people start blaming people by getting offended by small things. Just stick with the message guys, consumption driven demand is not a mono-country issue here -.-

  12. There isn't a single video on youtube with the word "china" in its title where the comments aren't flooded by the CCP's lapdogs in the 50c army. You're not fooling anyone. Well, that's not entirely true, there are a few morons you are fooling.


    Swine are such smart animals, kept in horrible conditions. I never buy pork, though will eat it on when others serve it.

    Don't feel bad about chickens, they've been bred to the extreme not to move around, and be docile and not Peck each other. We bred them to be permanently zoned out, for profit.

    Cows in the us are ok too, many are kept on open range land and likewise are pretty happy. A cow dying from stress costs too much.

    But swine have worst of both worlds and are the smartest by far.

  14. These Brazilian soy growers are NOT farmers, they are miners, mining out the soil's fertility. When that's gone, they will leave. The exhausted land will need years of reclamation. Unsustainable life styles self-correct. In the meantime, people suffer. People die. The problem is ignorance of land management, but mainly it is property rights. The govt. is not protecting property, it is letting thugs exploit, certainly for a fee, a cut of the profits. This is how govt. works if it is based on the worldwide political paradigm, COERCION. Rights are violated for short term gains and this is tolerated, even supported by the majority, the world over. No where does a voluntary govt. exist where reason, rights, and choice are the political paradigm.

  15. It's business. Africa has a well-protected natural environment, anyone want to live there? If you want to make money, of course it will cost you something. But still, only China is willing to lend you money. America will tell you not to make deal with China, but it won't give you anything instead.

  16. I'm tired of these YouTube channels saying we are getting their content for free when you either have to watch a commercial or have to pay YouTube so you can watch commercial and that leads to the next problem, YouTube has wasted the money on trying to make movies instead of giving the money to popular channels to create better content people already enjoy.

  17. Westerner eat much more meat per person than any Asian person. Somehow your message always try to sound good but always have a very dark side and try to link all bad to China. I see what you are doing. Very smart but dark.

  18. Per Chinese people eat meat is less than most of the west people, why do you blame China? The double standard is disgusting.

  19. You can burn everything (I mean everything) on the earth and it would only destroy 00.08% out of 100.00% of the earths Oxygen. What quartz should have said was look at these amazing plants that could have the cure for…

  20. poor countries like brazil are poor because they think poorly. Probably iq below 80 or something. All poor countries have this in common, they worship money.

  21. you know what, the BEST Chinese people should be keeping poverty, eating and consuming little, producing cheap & good quality products.
    otherwise, they are BAD Chinese and a threat to Western countries.

  22. This is more like one of those 'Blame-China for everything' video clips. Quartz use this as a perfect opportunity to discredit China.

  23. Maybe one day your wife has sex with another man, you will also say that it is all China's fault. Oh wait, you have no wife yet? That must be China's fault.

  24. America rodents and American farmers think US as the greatest agricultural country in the world – they discover it is so erroneous – other countries with land opened up for economic development on global scale for competition – something US hates so much because it means the US$ becoming less used and US economy becoming fragile – leading its present administration to press China to revive its agricultural status. So funny.

  25. Right, so it's China's fault because Brazilians can only export basic products such as soybeans, and if wasn't Brazil supplying it would be the US, in which case this episode wouldn't exist.

  26. Thanks for educating me, and thanks for making me more aware. Thanks to everyone, for making all the effort that y'all made, to make this video.

  27. Lol it’s not China’s taste in meat it’s the tariffs by our amazing president China is moving to other countries for things like beef and soybeans

  28. Wait…. Why is China's fault that Brazilians decide to turn forests into farm lands? They are not forced to do this, right? In this logic, the US is buying products from all over the world, so it should be the main criminal for our global enviroment crisis? And why it becomes an environmental problem when the Chinese are buying from Brazil and it wasn't one when buying from the US?

  29. America : How dare you eat so much meat China
    China : but you eat even more
    America :you are not allow to eat as much as we do

  30. So at the same time they show China as bad for consuming meat and blame Brazil for deforestation.. I see what you're doing there 😉😉….
    It's merely propaganda with a geopolitics touch in it!

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