Attorney General James Sues World’s Largest Beef Producer for Misrepresenting Environmental Impact of Their Products

JBS USA Misled Consumers and Claimed That the Company Would Achieve Net Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2040
JBS Greenwashed Environmental Harms and Targeted Consumers with Fake Sustainability Claims to Boost Sales

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today filed a lawsuit against JBS USA Food Company and JBS USA Food Company Holdings (JBS USA), the American subsidiary of the world’s largest producer of beef products, for misleading the public about its environmental impact. JBS USA has claimed that it will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, despite documented plans to increase production, and therefore increase its carbon footprint.

Beef production emits the most greenhouse gasses of any major food commodity, and animal agriculture accounts for 14.5 percent of annual global greenhouse gas emissions. In 2021, the JBS Group, JBS USA’s global parent company, reported total global greenhouse gas emissions of over 71 million tons, more than the total emissions of some countries. Attorney General James seeks to stop JBS USA from continuing these false and misleading marketing practices, pay disgorgement of all ill-gotten profits, and penalties.

“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,” said Attorney General James. “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. My office will always ensure that companies do not abuse the environment and the trust of hardworking consumers for profit.”

When greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane are emitted into the earth’s atmosphere, they trap the heat from the sun, resulting in global warming and climate change. Beef production contributes significantly to global climate change and is the top driver of deforestation in the world’s tropical forests, more than double that of soy, palm oil, and wood production combined. 

JBS USA has made several misleading claims about its environmental impact, including pledges to curb deforestation and reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. At a 2015 industry presentation, a JBS USA executive said it was important for beef producers to convey to consumers that they were lowering their environmental impact to maintain their share of the food market. Since then, JBS Group and JBS USA have continued to make claims about the sustainability of beef products. For example, in April 2021, the company ran a full-page advertisement in the New York Times that featured the “net zero” claim. As recently as September 2023, the JBS Group CEO told the audience at a Climate Week event in New York City that the company “pledged to be Net Zero in 2040.” As of February 2024, the company’s website still boasts that claim.

Consumers worldwide are increasingly concerned about their impact on the environment and put greater trust in companies and brands that pledge to be sustainable or climate conscious. Recent studies have shown that people are influenced by a company’s environmental reputation and are willing to change their habits to switch to more environmentally friendly products: more than two-thirds of American adults are willing to pay more for sustainable products. JBS Group and JBS USA have used greenwashing and misleading statements to capitalize on consumers’ increasing desire to make environmentally friendly choices, claiming:

  • “Agriculture can be part of the climate solution. Bacon, chicken wings, and steak with net zero emissions. It’s possible.”
  • “We will cut our own emissions by 30% in 2030 and eliminate Amazon deforestation from our supply chain within five years.”
  • “JBS will achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions, reducing its direct and indirect emissions and offsetting all residual emissions.”

JBS Group and JBS USA repeatedly misled consumers with these claims while the company’s executives told their industry peers that they needed to use messaging targeted to climate-conscious consumers in order to remain competitive. In reality, when making these promises, JBS Group and JBS USA had not calculated the company’s total greenhouse gas emissions, and therefore had no way of knowing whether they could successfully reduce those emissions to net zero by 2040.

JBS USA continued to make these false claims despite receiving a warning from BBB National Programs’ National Advertising Division (NAD), which determined that the company’s evidence did not support the net zero claims it was making to consumers. The NAD recommended that JBS USA stop making these net zero claims in its advertising. This recommendation was affirmed by the National Advertising Review Board.

Further, the JBS Group’s greenhouse gas emissions calculations have not accounted for emissions resulting from deforestation in the Amazon. The company’s “net zero” commitment is not feasible given the current scope of the JBS Group’s business operations and its plans to significantly increase beef production.

These actions constitute deceptive business practices and false advertising in violation of sections 349 and 350 of the General Business Law. JBS USA’s insistence on continuing to tout “Net Zero by 2040” despite knowing the claim was fraudulent also constitutes a violation of Executive Law 63(12).

With this lawsuit, Attorney General James is asking the court to require JBS USA to cease its “Net Zero by 2040” advertising campaign, conduct a third-party audit of its compliance with New York’s consumer protection statutes, and pay disgorgement of all ill-gotten gains earned by misleading the public about their business practices as well as penalties of at least $5,000 per violation. The total number of violations will be determined at trial.

“As the fight against climate change presses on around the world, it is heartening to know that many corporate entities are working to reduce their carbon footprint and greenhouse gas emissions,” said State Senator Pete Harckham, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Conservation. “Deceiving consumers in this regard is doubly shameful because, falsehoods aside, major efforts along these lines are truly needed. I thank Attorney General James for recognizing there can be no grey areas in greenwashing claims and climate action.”

“The growing dangers of climate change require all of us — from individuals to governments and corporations — to take immediate bold action,” said Assemblymember Deborah Glick, Chair of the Committee on Environmental Conservation. “Consumers want to know that the companies they do business with are doing their part to curb their greenhouse gas emissions. Companies that mislead the public into believing that they are being responsible environmental stewards when they are not must be held accountable for their deception and I thank Attorney General James for doing so.”

“Greenwashing is a form of fraud that harms the market and the planet. Through their deceit, companies engaged in greenwashing deprive consumers of their right to make informed decisions and gain dollars that could have gone to genuinely environmentally friendly practices,” said Assemblymember Dana Levenberg. “Frequently, greenwashing is used to justify higher prices, which makes this practice even more harmful to the public. I applaud our Attorney General for taking action against JBS USA and sending a strong message that New York state will protect consumers from all forms of fraud, including novel ones such as greenwashing.”

“I applaud the Attorney General for taking action against JBS Group for their false or misleading claims that their products would reach “Net Zero by 2040” in greenhouse gas emissions,” said Assemblymember Chris Burdick. “The public needs to be able to rely upon truthful statements from good public citizens in the corporate world that they are working to advance our shared goals in fighting climate change. Any false or misleading claims undermine our collective efforts.”

“JBS repeatedly claims that it will reach net zero by 2040. This claim was found to be misleading and yet JBS continues to assert it,” said Peter Lehner, Managing Attorney, Sustainable Food & Farming Program at Earthjustice. “While it is critical for every company to reduce its climate change impact, JBS would need to implement enormous operational changes to achieve this goal. However, JBS is doing very little and is not taking anywhere close to the steps that would be required. The law is clear that a company cannot claim credit for some goal without a realistic plan to achieve it. We applaud New York Attorney General Letitia James for blowing the whistle on this consumer fraud. Families deserve the truth while trying to stretch their food dollars to eat healthy and sustainable food.”

“Consumers are ready to support companies taking strong climate action, but they want assurance that climate claims are real, not greenwashed,” said Ben Lilliston, Director of Climate Strategies at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy. “As the largest meat company in the world, with a significant climate footprint, JBS has a responsibility to be fully transparent about its emissions, reduction strategies, and outcomes. The New York Attorney General’s action today not only holds JBS accountable for its unsubstantiated net-zero claim, but also sends a strong signal to other companies that empty promises do not pass for climate action.”

“JBS has driven more than 2.4 million acres of Amazon deforestation, has poured record methane pollution into the atmosphere, and has a total climate footprint estimated to exceed the entire country of Spain,” said Glenn Hurowitz, CEO at Mighty Earth. “Although the company has pledged to be ‘Net Zero’ by 2040, it has excluded from its calculation sources of pollution that represent more than 90 percent of its footprint and has not offered a credible plan to improve its performance. JBS has repeatedly resisted implementing affordable, cost-effective solutions like channeling development onto degraded land, scaling sustainable protein production, or prohibiting egregious pollution in its supply chain. Attorney General James is showing that even a company this big can’t get slick greenwashing past the state of New York.”

“We applaud Attorney General James and her team for cracking down on deceptive greenwashing practices that mislead consumers and, specifically, for holding JBS accountable,” said Monique Mikhail, Campaigns Director, Agriculture & Climate Finance at Friends of the Earth U.S. “JBS is one of the top global companies contributing to climate change and has proven time and again it can't be trusted to self-police. Consumers want — and need — real action on climate. Corporations should and must be held responsible when they mislead the public about their harmful impacts.”

“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions needs to be a priority for every segment of society,” said Adrienne Esposito, Executive Director at Citizens Campaign for the Environment. “Everyone needs to do their part to make the planet a more livable, breathable place. Corporations that market GHG reductions to the public need to deliver on their promise. When they do not deliver, they need to be held accountable. Claiming ‘net-zero emissions’ while driving up harmful polluting emissions is an illegal marketing tactic. Greenwashing beef production is just ‘bull-ony.’ Kudos to Attorney General Letitia James for holding corporations accountable when they fail on their promises and misled the public through deceptive marketing claims.”

“Through our choices, consumers have enormous power to support sustainable practices, but only if product and sourcing information is accurate,” said Noam Bramson, Executive Director at Sustainable Westchester. “In this sense, greenwashing is a particularly harmful form of deceptive marketing that actively impedes effective climate action. I applaud the Attorney General for her leadership in ensuring accountability and promoting truthful practices that serve our state, nation, and world.”

“We applaud the climate and consumer protection leadership being shown by New York Attorney General Letitia James, and need more elected officials who are willing to stand up to the world’s largest and most destructive corporations. JBS certainly meets that standard as one of the largest drivers of deforestation in the Amazon, including the territories of Indigenous communities,” said Todd Paglia, Executive Director at “We need to stop the rise of greenwashing and increase accountability for corporations like JBS who mislead consumers with false climate and sustainability claims. This lawsuit should put others on notice as well, including the banks that continue to fund JBS and other extractive industries like oil and gas in the Amazon. If you deceive consumers about your environmental impact, you will be challenged.”

This matter is being handled by Assistant Attorneys General Rita McDonough and Ashley M. Gregor, Senior Counsel for Climate Change and Air Pollution Litigation Michael J. Myers, and Law Fellow Alexandria Lopez of the Environmental Protection Bureau, Environmental Scientists Amelia Grant-Alfieri and Linda Wilson, under the supervision of Bureau Chief Lemuel M. Srolovic. The Environmental Protection Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.