Meat and dairy firms to be world’s biggest polluters by 2050

The top 20 meat and dairy firms produce more greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions than the entire UK, and are set to be the planet’s worst climate polluters within the next few decades.


That is according to a new report from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), which warns that the livestock sector could consume 80% of the world’s annual GHG budget by 2050.

It reveals that the five largest corporations are already responsible for more emissions than oil giants ExxonMobil, Shell and BP, and continue to ramp up production and exports.

“Meat and dairy production in the countries where the top 35 companies dominate must be significantly reduced,” said Devlin Kuyek, researcher at non-profit GRAIN, which co-produced the report.

“These corporations are pushing for trade agreements that will increase exports and emissions, and they are undermining real climate solutions like agroecology that benefit farmers, workers and consumers.”

The report reveals that most of the world’s top 35 meat and dairy companies either fail to report emissions entirely or exclude their supply chains, which account for 80-90% of emissions.

Just four provide comprehensive emissions estimates, while only half have announced any type of reduction targets.

It was also found that the US, EU, Canada, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, New Zealand and China are responsible for over 60% of the emissions from global meat and dairy production – around twice the rest of the world on a per capita basis.

Just six of these countries produce over 67% of the world’s beef, three are responsible for 80% of pork, four account for 61% of chicken, while three produce nearly half of all dairy.  

IATP director, Shefali Sharma, said the problem was largely caused by the subsidies provided to the industry, arguing that this was creating a vast array of environmental problems.

“It’s time we realised over-consumption is directly linked to the subsidies we provide the industry to continue deforesting, depleting our natural resources and creating a major public health hazard through antibiotic overuse,” she said.

“This report shows what a key role they play in creating climate change as well. There is no such thing as ‘cheap meat’.”


Image credit: Shutterstock


Chris Seekings is a reporter for TRANSFORM

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