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Democrat state sues meat producer over climate change

New York State Attorney General Letitia James at a news conference in Manhattan on March 28, 2019. (Byron Smith/New York Daily News/TNS)
February 29, 2024

New York Democratic Attorney General Letitia James announced a lawsuit Wednesday against JBS Foods, the world’s largest beef producer. James claimed that the American division of the company, JBS USA Food Company, has been “misleading the public” regarding the company’s environmental impact.

The New York attorney general’s lawsuit against JBS USA Food Company claims that the meat producer was “misleading” consumers by claiming the company would “achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040” despite planning to “increase production, and therefore increase its carbon footprint.”

“As families continue to face the daily impacts of the climate crisis, they are willing to spend more of their hard-earned money on products from brands that are better for the environment,” James said. “When companies falsely advertise their commitment to sustainability, they are misleading consumers and endangering our planet.”

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James claims JBS USA engaged in “greenwashing,” which she said “exploits the pocketbooks of everyday Americans and the promise of a healthy planet for future generations.” The attorney general cited multiple claims by JBS USA that suggested the company was “environmentally friendly.

The company’s “Net Zero by 2040” plan allegedly has told consumers that the agricultural industry can “be part of the climate solution” and suggested that it was “possible” for agriculture to have net zero emissions.

According to the lawsuit, JBS USA claimed the company would reduce its emissions by 30% in 2030, would “eliminate Amazon deforestation from our supply chain within five years,” and would “achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions” despite BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division warning that the company did not have the evidence to support its claims.

According to Reuters, James’ lawsuit is asking the state court in Manhattan to order JBS USA to stop advertising its “Net Zero by 2040” plan, to pay back “all ill-gotten gains earned by misleading the public,” and pay a $5,000 civil fine for each violation of the state’s business laws. The number of the company’s potential violations has not yet been disclosed, as the exact number is expected to be finalized during a potential trial.

Reuters reported that JBS USA has expressed its disagreement with the attorney general’s lawsuit and pledged to continue striving for a “more sustainable future for agriculture.”