The Meat Industry is Jeopardizing the Paris Agreement

A new index that looks at the true level of emissions from meat and fish industry producers finds that they have been consistently underestimating their environmental impact.

The index, known as the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index, takes a broad look at the meat and fish industries and looks at the environmental and social impact of 60 of the largest such companies.

The Index finds that 72 percent of the companies, so roughly three out of every four, weren’t able to demonstrate that they were even measuring or reporting their global emissions accurately or, in some cases, at all. Given how substantial livestock emissions are, this is a big problem.

The Index measures more than just emissions though. It looks at topics as diverse as use of antibiotics — something that is used to prop up the intensive farming industry — as well other key issues like deforestation.

In total, the Index finds that 36 of the 60 largest companies were designated as “high risk”.

Most of them are based in Asia, which is poised to become the leading meat and dairy producer in the world. There is an urgent need, therefore, to address this through political channels, because it speaks to a broader problem with under-regulation in developing meat production sectors.

Antibiotics use is flagged as a major problem too, but not just for Asia. In fact, 77 percent of companies were failing to adequately report on their antibiotics use and procedures.

Given the rising problem of antibiotics resistance that threatens global health, it is hard to overstate just how critical transparent reporting and reduction efforts can be in the cattle sector, which is a primary driver of antibiotics resistance.

The news was not all negative however. The Index highlights several companies for their so-called “best practices”.

Among those praised was Norwegian firm SalMar which, the index notes, has “comprehensive” and evidence based targets to reduce its emissions by at least 10 percent by the year 2020. This, the report implies, is a model that all companies should explore. Norwegian aquaculture was found to be among the most sustainable in the industry.

Another company highlighted by the report includes the US firm Tyson Foods. Its “Tyson Ventures” capital fund enables the firm to invest and develop plant based meats and sustainable food products, putting it ahead of the curve of most in the meat industry while also recognizing the need to move away from primary cattle farming to reduce emissions.

Other firms were highlighted for things like putting in place action plans for reducing their antibiotics use, among many other steps.

Putting this Index in Perspective

The Index is interesting in itself for how it highlights company practices. However, as experts in the field have noted, the Index provides an invaluable resource for investors. We know that, broadly speaking, many investors are trying to divest from fossil fuels, and are also trying to invest smartly when it comes to reducing climate impact.

Imogen Rose-Smith, Investment Fellow at University of California, explained in a press release why tools like this are so crucial for driving meaningful change: “The multi-trillion dollar global food sector is probably the world’s biggest industry, yet investors do not have the tools to understand its risks, especially the environmental and health risks hidden in big food’s labyrinth supply chains.”

“At a stroke it enables capital markets to more easily identify which intensive farming companies are adequately managing material business issues such as food safety, working conditions and environmental impacts, and which companies are at risk,” Rose-Smith says.

Despite these positives, it’s discouraging that animal agriculture appears to be failing to even meet basic reporting standards as agreed in several environmental protection policies.

Global governments must clamp down on this serious failure to report and manage risks, particularly on antibiotics resistance. What’s more, if we are to keep global temperature rise below the 1.5-2C threshold and meet our Paris Agreement goals, we must act strongly and deliberately now.

The good news is, as this Index shows, some companies in the meat and fish industries are acting responsibly. Hopefully, they can provide models for others to show that risk mitigation isn’t just possible, but it is achievable without compromising business growth.

Photo credit: Thinkstock.

55 comments

KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssues2 days ago

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth. https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth ...................................................................................................................................................https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/meat-dairy-industry-greenhouse-gas-emissions-fossil-fuels-oil-pollution-iatp-grain-a8451871.html .....................................................................................................................................................To bring a life into existence for the sole purpose of killing them sounds like an act of PSYCHOPATHY but we call it FARMING :(( Despicable!!

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KimJ M
KimJ ManyIssues2 days ago

Avoiding meat and dairy is ‘single biggest way’ to reduce your impact on Earth.
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/may/31/avoiding-meat-and-dairy-is-single-biggest-way-to-reduce-your-impact-on-earth

https://www.independent.co.uk/environment/meat-dairy-industry-greenhouse-gas-emissions-fossil-fuels-oil-pollution-iatp-grain-a8451871.html

To bring a life into existence for the sole purpose of killing them sounds like an act of PSYCHOPATHY but we call it FARMING :(( Despicable!!

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Ruth S
Ruth S24 days ago

Thanks.

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Glennis W
Glennis W26 days ago

Very scary There is lots to be done Thank you for caring and shring

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Glennis W
Glennis W26 days ago

Very worrying Thank you for caring and shring

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Glennis W
Glennis W26 days ago

Great information and advice Thank you for caring and shring

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Glennis W
Glennis W26 days ago

Very interesting article Thank you for caring and shring

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Danuta W
Danuta W26 days ago

thank you for posting

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Renata B
Renata B26 days ago

The only decent and sustainable solution is to stop murdering innocent animals and have to keep more and more humans in hospitals to be treated (for deadly diseases).

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