Meat, Dairy Industry Surpass Big Oil As World’s Biggest ‘Climate Polluters’
Within the next few decades, Big Meat and Big Dairy could surpass Big Oil as the world’s biggest climate polluters, a new study by non-profit GRAIN and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) showed on Wednesday.
The world’s biggest animal protein producers could soon surpass ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP as the largest contributors to climate pollution, according to the study.
IATP and GRAIN jointly published the study that quantifies emissions from 35 of the world’s largest meat and dairy companies and reviews their plans to fight climate change.
The report found out that the five largest meat and dairy corporations combined – JBS, Tyson, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America, and Fonterra – are already responsible for more annual greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell, or BP. According to one figure in the report, the combined emissions of the top five companies are on par with those of Exxon and significantly higher than those of Shell or BP.
Moreover, the report also found that the combined emissions of the top 20 meat and dairy companies surpass the emissions from entire nations, such as Germany, Canada, Australia, the UK, or France.
Most of the top 35 meat and dairy companies either fail to report emissions entirely, or exclude their supply chain emissions, which account for 80-90 percent of emissions, according to the study, which pointed out that only four of the 35 biggest companies provide comprehensive emissions estimates.
In addition, less than half of the top 35 meat and dairy companies in the world have announced any type of targets to reduce emissions.
“If the growth of the global meat and dairy industry continues as projected, the livestock sector as a whole could consume 80 percent of the planet’s annual greenhouse gas budget by 2050,” the report said.
“The climate community’s attention has been focused on fossil fuel companies. It is time we broadened our focus to include the meat and dairy majors. In the next ten years, we must work together to build a just transition of our agricultural economy that helps restore rural communities and our soil, and sustain our planet,” IATP said.
According to their website:
GRAIN is a small international non-profit organisation that works to support small farmers and social movements in their struggles for community-controlled and biodiversity-based food systems
But their real objective is to stop us eating meat, as their press release reveals:
There are several possible pathways to bringing emissions from meat and dairy production down to levels that are compatible with global efforts to prevent dangerous climate change. All of them, however, require significant reductions in meat and dairy production and consumption in the overproducing and overconsuming countries. Reduction in both production and consumption in the United States, the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil alone would result in dramatic cuts in global emissions. Other countries must also take care to keep consumption and production at moderate per capita levels, in line with their nutritional requirements and the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.
Being a bunch of anti capitalist eco-loons, GRAIN likes to blame it all on these big food companies:
The climate footprint of the meat and dairy giants
Unlike their counterparts in the energy sector, the big meat and dairy companies have thus far escaped public scrutiny of their contribution to climate change. The lack of public information on the magnitude of their GHG footprints is one contributing factor. GRAIN and IATP have reviewed the efforts undertaken by the world’s 35 largest beef, pork, poultry and dairy companies to quantify their GHG emissions. We found the publicly available data on their emissions to be incomplete, not comparable between companies or years and, in the majority of cases, simply absent (Figure 9A). Only four companies – NH Foods (Japan), Nestlé (Switzerland), FrieslandCampina (the Netherlands) and Danone (France) – provide complete, credible emissions estimates. However, under the current circumstances, even these four are not obligated to reduce these emissions. Most of the companies that do report emissions have seriously underreported them and have not included most of their supply chain emissions in their calculations.
These supply chain emissions, covering everything from the production of animal feed crops to the methane released by cattle, generally account for 80–90% of meat and dairy emissions. However, large meat and dairy companies have a particular responsibility to include these upstream emissions in their accounting. As vertically integrated businesses, they exercise significant and often direct control over their supply chains, including feedlot and processing operations, contract farming systems and feed production units. It is thus critical that big meat and dairy companies be held directly accountable for the upstream supply chain emissions, and denied the ability to shift blame (and costs) onto their farmer suppliers or the public.
But their own words disproves their logic:
These supply chain emissions, covering everything from the production of animal feed crops to the methane released by cattle, generally account for 80–90% of meat and dairy emissions.
Big Food may be guilty of all sorts of things, but the vast majority of emissions come from producing the meat and dairy that the big companies go on to process.
Either we eat that food or we don’t. GRAIN seems to prefer the latter.
GRAIN’s callous disregard for the interests of ordinary people is made clear by their attitude to developing countries:
Another key country is China, now the number one emitter of GHGs from meat and dairy production after two decades of exponential growth in per capita consumption, coupled with imports from the surplus protein countries and concentration of domestic production in the hands of a few large corporations……
Reduction in both production and consumption in the United States, the EU, Australia, New Zealand and Brazil alone would result in dramatic cuts in global emissions.Other countries must also take care to keep consumption and production at moderate per capita levels, in line with their nutritional requirements and the Paris Agreement goal of limiting global warming to 1.5 °C.
How dare Chinese people want to improve their standard of living, and no longer have to starve as they used to.
As for the rest of those poor devils in the Third World, reducing emissions is apparently more important than a decent diet. (That phrase about “nutritional requirements” has an Orwellian touch about it).
What their report does show though is the utter futility of thinking we can eliminate emissions of CO2 and other GHGs. No matter how many trillions we spend on wind mills and solar panels, we will all still need food and a thousand other things, which all need energy. And as populations increase, and people become wealthier, demand for energy will keep on increasing.