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.


Naomi D
Naomi D15 days ago


Ken O
Ken O16 days ago

The meat industry jeopardizes everything.

Emma Z
Emma Z18 days ago

And our time on Earth.

Sandra V
Sandra V19 days ago


Sandra V
Sandra V19 days ago


Linda Wallace
Linda Wallace19 days ago

We just need to stop eating meat and drinking dairy. We would be healthier and so would the earth.

Chrissie R
Chrissie R19 days ago

Overpopulating humans and their consumerism....

Winn A
Winnie A19 days ago


Sherri S
Sherri S19 days ago

The meat industry is jeopardizing the entire planet!

Alea C
Alea C20 days ago

I wouldn't give up my life voluntarily, just so someone could munch on my corpse after killing me in the worst way possible, and neither would you. Go vegan.