Meat and dairy are destroying the planet

Cattle in a feedlot in Nebraska.

Cattle in a feedlot in Nebraska.
picture: Natty Harnik (AP)

The The world’s largest meat and dairy companies are responsible for more than 10% of all global methane emissions from livestock, with some single companies emitting as much or more methane than many individual countries, including Russia and Germany, And a new Australia Report Find. The report, released this week from the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and the Changing Markets Foundation, does a lot of the math on food giants like JBS, Tyson and Nestle, and Danone, which found that just 15 meat and dairy companies are responsible for 3.4% of global methane emissions from human activity.

Overall, the report found that these companies emit 734 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent each year — higher than Germany’s annual emissions — while methane emissions from agriculture account for about 80% of total methane emissions in the EU.

“Agricultural emissions are highly concentrated within a handful of huge meat and dairy companies responsible for much of this problem through their globalized supply chains,” Nosa Urbancic, campaigns director at Changing Markets, tells Earther in an email. “This study shows that methane emissions from industrial animal farming should be high on the list of priorities for governments.”

Methane stays in the atmosphere for a much shorter time than carbon dioxide, but it’sThey are most intense while they’re there, making them an increasingly worrisome factor in runaway global warming. Cows in particular A problematic source of methane emissions Due to the process of enteric fermentation – the mechanics of the digestive system that lead to some belching laden with greenhouse gases. Thanks in part to the explosion of animal farming in recent decades, livestock farming is now responsible for it 9% of total global methane emissions. In recent years, so have world leaders increasingly tense The need to control methane emissions, and quickly, in order to lower the overall body temperature.

To compile the report, the researchers used data on milk intake from 10 From the world’s largest dairy companies and slaughter figures – the number of animals killed annually – from some of the world’s largest meat distributors. The authors then used regional meat production estimates, the Greenho Regional AverageUse the gas Emission intensity data and milk production estimates from a United Nations Model of Agricultural Evaluation To calculate methane emissions for each company.

Many of these numbers are hard to find, and much of the research relied on self-reported data from the companies themselves. During the research phase of the report, the authors asked 15 companies to regionally distribute milk or slaughter data. Only four companies responded.

“It’s very difficult to get any data from these companies,” Urbancic said. “There is very little in the public domain, And especially for meat companies, we had to strive for their annual sustainability and investment reports to obtain any information on their operations.”

Three of the five meat companies — including JBS and Tyson — haven’t released their own slaughter data, so to estimate how many animals they process each year, the report uses slaughter processing rates, or number of animals slaughter facilities can, To estimate the number of animals they kill annually.

There is a lot of mystery here. Given how little data is publicly available – which in itself is a red flag that more transparency is needed to better control how much harm these companies are actually causing on the planet. tThe raw numbers provided by the report are still staggering. According to the report’s methodology, JBS, the world’s largest meat producer, has a larger methane footprint than those From Italy, Spain and the U.SK sum; Meanwhile, Tyson Foods has a larger methane footprint than Russia. (We have reached out to many of the companies mentioned in the report This article will be updated If they respond.)

There are a lot of industries that need more regulation to reduce methane emissions (looking at you, Oil and gas companies). But as this report shows, industrial agriculture plays a huge role in the current methane problem. Industry is too Build defenses of methane emissions that policymakers need to be aware of as they build responses.

“Given that we are in a climate emergency, which is already affecting farmers everywhere, governments must act urgently and put in place a comprehensive set of regulations, which should range from climate targets for the agricultural sector to reforming existing harmful agricultural subsidies.” Urbancic said. However, it will be critical that the burden of reducing emissions fall on the companies that shape and drive the supply chain. Farmers must be supported both inside and outside corporate supply chains to play a critical role in a sequential, intentional, and fair transition from mass industrial livestock production toward agroecological systems that are healthy for the planet and people.”

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