Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Raisa Ramos de Pina

Location: Brazil
Academic field: Anthropology
Award category: PhD Student

Guidance Memo

  • Title (English): Feeding inequality: The hidden costs of Brazil's meat industry monopoly
  • Title (Portuguese): Alimentando a desigualdade: Os custos ocultos do monopólio industrial da carne
  • What We Learned From It:
    • This Guidance Memo focuses on JBS - the world’s largest food company, based mostly on processed meat products. The central theme revolves around the stark contrast between JBS’s exponential growth, fueled by government policies and financial institutions, and escalating social inequalities in Brazil.
    • The global meat industry has witnessed a meteoric rise since the 1960s with production increasing 402%.
    • JBS is the world’s biggest meat processor with annual revenue of US $77 billion, contributing 2.1% to Brazil’s GDP and 2.7% of its employment. Its slogan is “We feed the world with the best”.
    • In the last 20 years, US $6 billion has flowed to JBS in public finance through the Brazilian Development Bank (BNDES). BNDES holds a 20.8% stake in JBS. Foreign investors hold 11%.
    • Over a hundred thousand workers at JBS earn around US $393 monthly, a third of what is estimated as a living wage in Brazil. Each of the five top JBS executives take home the equivalent of US $420,000 every month.
    • The majority of the 400+ shareholders who attend the company’s annual meetings are against the executives’ high wages, but these wages continue to increase.
    • Brazil ranks as the most unequal country in the world in terms of wealth inequality.
    • Indicators of poverty and hunger have increased in 11 of 12 Brazilian cities where JBS is heavily involved (2013-2023).


Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application

  • This is a critique of JBS from a rare but powerful perspective.
  • It also serves as a strong case to illustrate capital accumulation's links to uneven development in the Global South for the benefit of an elite minority.
  • The applicant has excellent knowledge of and personal connections to the research topics.
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