This article provides an integrated analytical framework to explain the factors and trends shaping cattle ranching development in the Brazilian Amazon and its implications for deforestation. The two most important factors currently shaping cattle ranching evolution in this region are gradual market integration and the associated shifting policy contexts. Based on these two broader contextual factors, this article analyzes four main specific trends shaping the production and trade dynamics in the cattle sector. The first trend is growing investment in beef and dairy processing facilities situated closer to production zones.The second trend is gradual improvement in cattle herds and management systems alongside persistently extensive cattle ranching. The third is simultaneous fragmentation and concentration of landholdings. The fourth is widespread adoption of ranching by smallholders. These four trends are not isolated from each other; instead, they interact in complex ways to influence the dynamics of cattle expansion and associated land use outcomes. This article also discusses the complexities underlying any policy responses that aim to reduce environmental impacts of cattle ranching without hindering regional development and harming the well-being of the rural poor. This article adopts a three-step methodology that begins by formulating an analytical framework based on literature review and interview data to understand the factors shaping the development of cattle ranching, then it uses secondary data to depict the primary trends of production and trade in the cattle sector and, finally, the previous analysis is linked with observed deforestation trends.