An investor group managing more than $4 trillion in assets just issued a warning to its constituents: Get ready for a tax on meat.
Drawing parallels with cigarettes, carbon, and sugar, the Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) group has concluded that it is “increasingly probable” and “seems inevitable” that a meat tax is imminent following the implementation of the Paris Climate Accord.
Jeremy Coller, founder of the FAIRR Initiative and CIO of Coller Capital explains:
If policymakers are to cover the true cost of livestock epidemics like avian flu and human epidemics like obesity, diabetes and cancer, while also tackling the twin challenges of climate change and antibiotic resistance, then a shift from subsidisation to taxation of the meat industry looks inevitable.
FAIRR strongly recommends that food companies begin adopting a “shadow price” of meat to account for future costs. Indeed, the “shadow” cast by meat production is exceptionally long, as the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization clearly stated in its aptly named analysis, Livestock’s Long Shadow. According to the UN’s analysis, meat production is an inordinately large contributor to “the major causes of the world’s most pressing environmental problems, including global warming, land degradation, air and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity.”
In fact, even the most "efficient" meat – chicken – causes 40 times as much climate change per calorie of protein relative to legumes like soy and peas.
If you factor in the costs incurred by the public health crises exacerbated by meat (antibiotic resistance, obesity, heart disease), then one has to admit there is a strong case for incorporating meat’s true cost into its price.
FAIRR highlighted a study published in Nature from the University of Oxford showing that if animal proteins were cut completely from global diets, more than $1 trillion could be saved in health and environmental costs by 2050.
Luckily, there are ways to meet the global demand for meat without the devastating consequences. As Good Food Institute Policy Director Jessica Almy told Vice:
“Meat made from plants and clean meat, which is produced directly from cells without a need for industrial farms and slaughterhouses, has all the benefits of meat without posing risks to the environment.”
Clean meat and plant-based alternatives are the clean energy equivalent of food, and if investors and companies want to protect against future costs and do some good in the process, there's no better way than to shift production toward these new and improved ways of making meat.
FAIRR’s full report, The Livestock Levy, will be released to the public in January.
To learn more about The Good Food Institute’s work to support the healthy and eco-friendly innovations plant-based and clean meat, click here!