JBS disagreed with the criteria used by the prosecutors and agreed to improve its monitoring system, block suppliers flagged by the research and donate $900,000 to the state in response to the audit.

To get a sense of scale of the ranches operating in vulnerable areas across the Brazilian Amazon, The Times overlaid government maps of protected Amazon land, deforested areas and farm boundaries with the locations of ranches that JBS publicly listed as supplying its slaughterhouses in 2020. An analysis showed that, among the JBS suppliers, ranches covering an estimated 2,500 square miles significantly overlapped Indigenous land, a conservation zone or an area that was deforested after 2008, when laws regulating deforestation were put in place in Brazil.

The methodology and results were examined and verified by a team of independent researchers and academics who study land use in the Brazilian Amazon.

International trade data showed companies that own tanneries supplied with the hides had then shipped leather to factories in Mexico run by Lear, a major seat maker that supplies auto assembly plants across the United States. Lear said in 2018 that it was then sourcing about 70 percent of its raw hides from Brazil. Brazil’s hides also go to other countries including Italy, Vietnam and China for use in the automotive, fashion and furniture industries, the trade data showed.

JBS acknowledged that almost three-quarters of the ranches identified in The Times’s analysis did overlap with land that the government categorizes as illegally deforested, or as Indigenous land or a conservation zone. But it said all the ranches had been in compliance with rules to prevent deforestation when JBS bought from them.

JBS said that, in those instances where there were overlaps, the farms were allowed to operate in protected or deforested areas, or their boundaries had changed, or they had followed rules to fix their environmental violations. Ranching is allowed in some protected areas in Brazil if it follows sustainable practices.

In a statement, JBS said it has maintained a monitoring system for more than a decade that verifies supplier compliance with its environmental policy. “More than 14,000 suppliers have been blocked for failure to comply with this policy,” it said. However, the company said, “the great challenge for JBS, and for the beef cattle supply chain in general, is to monitor the suppliers of its suppliers, since the company has no information about them.”

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