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Climate Impact of Meat and Dairy Bigger than Fossil Companies

Despite growing demand, only about 5 percent of milk sold in the United States comes from organic farms. (Pixabay)
Despite growing demand, only about 5 percent of milk sold in the United States comes from organic farms. (Pixabay)
November 21, 2017

DENVER – If the meat and dairy industries continue as usual, the Paris Climate Accord will be moot and a climate catastrophe inevitable. So says a new report that - for the first time - quantifies greenhouse-gas emissions from the five biggest global meat and dairy companies.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy is one of the authors of the report.

IATP's Climate Change director Ben Lilliston says the problem is systemic - the way animals are raised, processed and distributed.

"We're not blaming farmers," he stresses. "Farmers and producers are caught in a much larger system. It really is the companies' responsibility to shift the way that they raise animals and the way they work with farmers and raising animals."

The industry says production is designed to keep food affordable. But Lilliston says policymakers need to figure out how to reward food producers who keep climate change in mind. Consumers also can help by buying food from sustainable sources.

Lilliston says dairy especially has undergone massive change in recent decades.

"It's a shift from sort of a pasture-based way of raising dairy cows or having sort of a mix to really having them confined, whether it's a feedlot in the California model or a more indoor, confined operation," he explains.

The report names the companies behind the emissions: They are Brazil-based JBS Meat, U.S.-based Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America, Tyson Foods and New Zealand-based Fonterra Group.

Eric Galatas, Public News Service - CO