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Report: Meat, Dairy Industries Roadblocks to Fighting Climate Change

Together, the world's five largest meat and dairy companies emit more greenhouse gases than BP, ExxonMobil or Shell, says a new report. (Oikeutta eläimille/Flickr)
Together, the world's five largest meat and dairy companies emit more greenhouse gases than BP, ExxonMobil or Shell, says a new report. (Oikeutta eläimille/Flickr)
July 18, 2018

ST. PAUL, Minn. – The world's growing meat and dairy industries are undermining global efforts to combat climate change, according to a new report.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and GRAIN analyzed greenhouse gas emissions from the world's 35 largest meat and dairy companies, and found they could account for more than 80 percent of emissions under the Paris Agreement climate goals by 2050. They currently make up nearly 15 percent of emissions.

Report co-author Shefali Sharma, director of the institute's European office, said that as long as these companies plan to add more livestock, their emissions will continue to climb.

"If we want to get on a path to actually curb and limit climate change to something that humanity can withstand," she said, "then we definitely need to revisit and regulate the path that these industries take for their profits."

When combined, the top five largest companies in these industries – Minnesota-based Cargill, JBS, Tyson, Dairy Farmers of America and Fonterra – emit more greenhouse gases than BP, ExxonMobil or Shell, according to the report. The 20 biggest companies combined emit more than many large countries, including Germany, Canada and the United Kingdom.

The report also contends that the ag companies don't report or grossly under-report their greenhouse gas emissions. For instance, the world's largest meat processor – JBS of Brazil – has said it's responsible for about nine megatons of carbon dioxide, but Sharma's team calculated emissions at about 280 megatons.

Sharma is convinced that the world should transition away from the industrial farming model, in favor of a more decentralized, local approach that would help the environment and workers.

"[It] allows farmers to earn their cost of production, which is not the case in this industry where only a handful of companies dominate and dictate the price paid to farmers," she said, "and having decentralized processing plants where workers are treated humanely."

The report noted that onsumers could benefit from a decentralized system as well, because factory farms are becoming a major source of antibiotic resistance and pathogenic diseases.

The report is online at iatp.org.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - MN