Attorney General Letitia James said JBS USA Food Co, the Brazilian company's American-based unit, has "no viable plan" to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2040, making its stated commitment to achieving that goal false and misleading.

James said JBS has admitted its "Net Zero by 2040" commitment did not incorporate the vast majority of greenhouse gas emissions from its supply chain, including from deforestation in the Amazon.

She also said reaching the goal was "infeasible" given JBS' plan to increase production and therefore its carbon footprint, on top of greenhouse gas emissions that had by 2021 exceeded those of the entire country of Ireland.

"Families [are] willing to spend more of their hard-earned money on products from brands that are better for the environment," James said in a statement. "JBS USA's greenwashing exploits the pocketbooks of everyday Americans and the promise of a healthy planet for future generations."

The lawsuit filed in a New York state court in Manhattan seeks a $5,000 civil fine per violation of state business laws, and to recoup ill-gotten gains from false sustainability claims.

JBS's businesses include Pilgrim's Pride, one of the largest U.S. chicken producers.

In a statement, JBS said it disagreed with the lawsuit. It also pledged to continue partnering with farmers, ranchers and others toward a "more sustainable future for agriculture" that uses fewer resources and reduces its environmental impact.

The company generated about $53.5 billion of revenue in the first nine months of 2023, about 59% of which came from North America and Central America.

JBS shares trade in Brazil. The company has been seeking to list its shares in the United States.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)

By Jonathan Stempel