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Big Meat and Dairy Rival Big Oil on Climate Change

In recent decades, dairy production has shifted from the pasture to indoor confinement. (Mike Bowler/Flickr)
In recent decades, dairy production has shifted from the pasture to indoor confinement. (Mike Bowler/Flickr)
November 24, 2017

COLUMBUS, Ohio – A new report says if the meat and dairy industries continue as they have, the Paris Climate Accord will be moot and a climate catastrophe inevitable.

The study is the first to quantify greenhouse gas emissions from the five biggest global meat and dairy companies. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy is one of the groups behind the report.

IATP Climate Change Director Ben Lilliston said the problem is systemic, from how animals are raised, to how they are processed and distributed.

"We're not blaming farmers. Farmers and producers are caught in a much larger system,” Lilliston said. "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 said 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 said the dairy industry 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,” he said, "whether it's a feedlot in the California model or a more indoor, confined operations."

The companies behind the emissions are identified as: Brazil-based JBS Meat, New Zealand-based Fonterra Group; and in the U.S., Cargill, Tyson Foods and Dairy Farmers of America. The report said these producers emit more greenhouse gases than do Exxon, Shell or British Petroleum.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - OH