New York AG says meat producing giant made misleading environmental claims to boost sales

By Michael Hill, The Associated Press

The giant meat producer JBS was accused of making misleading claims about its greenhouse gas emission goals to boost sales among environmentally conscious consumers in a lawsuit filed Wednesday by New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The lawsuit filed in a state court in New York City alleges that the company claimed it will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 despite having no viable plan to meet that commitment. The lawsuit names as defendants JBS USA Food Company and JBS USA Food Company Holdings, the American subsidiary of the world-leading producer of beef products based in Brazil.

James says the company made misleading statements about its pledges to curb deforestation and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to capitalize on consumers’ desire to make climate friendly choices.

The lawsuit cites a full-page JBS USA advertisement in The New York Times in 2021 that includes the line: “Agriculture can be part of the climate solution. Bacon, chicken wings and steak with net-zero emissions. It’s possible.”

“When companies falsely advertise their commitment to sustainability, they are misleading consumers and endangering our planet. JBS USA’s greenwashing exploits the pocketbooks of everyday Americans and the promise of a healthy planet for future generations,” James said in a prepared release.

James is asking a court to require JBS USA to end its “Net Zero by 2040” campaign and to return profits “traceable to its fraudulent, deceptive, or illegal acts or practices.” The suit also seeks civil penalties of up to $5,000 per violation to be determined at trial.

A spokesperson for JBS said the company disagreed with James’ action.

“JBS will continue to partner with farmers, ranchers and our food system partners around the world to help feed a growing population while using fewer resources and reducing agriculture’s environmental impact,” read a statement emailed by spokesperson Nikki Richardson. “Our belief that American agriculture can help sustainably feed the world is undeterred.”

The lawsuit comes in the wake of recent letters from lawmakers in the United States and the United Kingdom to the Securities and Exchange Commission cautioning against the listing of JBS. The lawmakers argues that expanded capital would allow the company, responsible for much deforestation in the Amazon rainforest, to do even more harm.

Beef has the highest total greenhouse gas emissions of any major food commodity and beef production is linked to large-scale deforestation, according to the lawsuit.

Michael Hill, The Associated Press

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