Changes in the production or consumption of agricultural commodities in one place can drastically affect land use and the environment elsewhere. We show how changes in beef production and consumption in Russia following the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991 contributed to the emergence of a beef trade linkage between Brazil and Russia. We argue that the decline of Russian beef production after 1991, the rebound of domestic consumption since the late 1990s, the global beef trade constellation of the early 2000s, and the booming Brazilian cattle sector during the same periods forged a strong and lasting telecoupling in the beef trade between Brazil and Russia. As a result, Russia became the largest importer of both CO2 and non-CO2 emissions embodied in Brazilian beef exports since the 2000s. Our review exemplifies how the combination of institutional and socioeconomic shocks along with major changes in global markets can couple food systems and redistribute environmental footprints across long distances. Incorporating telecouplings in assessments of sustainable food systems is therefore important.