NEW YORK — New York Attorney General Letitia James filed a lawsuit on Feb. 28 against meat giant JBS USA Food Co. and JBS USA Co. Holdings for allegedly misleading the public about its environmental impact.

According to a press release from the attorney general’s office, JBS USA claimed it would achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040 while also planning to increase production, which would 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. JBS USA’s greenwashing exploits the pocketbooks of everyday Americans and the promise of a healthy planet for future generations.”

In 2021, JBS Group, the parent company of JBS USA, reported over 71 tons of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is greater than the total emissions of some countries, the release said.

James cited JBS USA environmental footprint claims dating back to 2015.

Through the lawsuit, 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 any ill-gotten gains earned by misleading the public about their business practices as well as penalties of at least $5,000 per violation.

Responding to the attorney general’s lawsuit, JBS USA said, “JBS takes its commitment to a more sustainable future for agriculture very seriously. We disagree with the action taken today by the New York Attorney General’s office. 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. Our belief that American agriculture can help sustainably feed the world is undeterred.”

Last year, JBS USA was advised by the Better Business Bureau’s National Advertising Division Review Board (NARB) to discontinue the use of the following claims related to net-zero goals:

  • “JBS is committing to be net zero by 2040”
  • “Global Commitment to Achieve Net-Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions by 2040”
  • “Bacon, chicken wings and steak with net zero emissions. It’s possible” and
  • “Leading change across the food industry and achieving our goal of net zero by 2040 will be a challenge. Anything less is not an option.” 
  • “The SBTi recognized the net zero commitment of JBS.”

Following the NARB decision, JBS stated on the NARB website that “it disagrees with the NAD and NARB’s interpretation of how consumers perceive the challenged claims as well as NARB’s conclusion about the record evidence, but JBS will comply with NARB’s recommendation in published statements and advertising claims going forward.”