Tax on meat incoming: will meat become the new tobacco?

Tax on meat incoming: will meat become the new tobacco?

Researchers and elected officials all across the world think there will be a meat tax within the next decade, designed to discourage people from eating meat. The rapid growth of meat consumption has disastrous consequences for our climate and health.


Meat tax unavoidable for climate goals

Multiple studies indicate that a meat tax is unavoidable. A new risk analysis by Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return Initiative (FAIRR) tells investors that meat is going the same direction as CO², sugar and tobacco in the way it is viewed and approached. In other words, it will most likely get taxed to discourage people from consuming meat.


The parliaments in Germany, Denmark and Sweden have already discussed such a meat tax, while China has already lowered the recommended maximum amount of meat 45 % in 2016. “Investors have to plan ahead”, FAIRR founder and private investor Coller Capital’s CEO, Jeremy Coller, said. 


“If policy makers take into account the actual cost of epidemics like obesity, diabetes and cancer and merge that with climate change and antibiotic immunity, then it seems unavoidable they will want to move away from a subsidized meat industry to a taxation”, Coller said.


FAIRR feels the meat tax will definitely come into view once countries try to meet the Paris climate accord’s targets. Livestock generates about 15 % of all greenhouse gases and the global meat consumption is on the rise. A lot of people eat too much meat, which is a very costly affair for healthcare. Water pollution and antibiotic immunity are problems caused by the meat industry.


Recommended tax: 40 % on beef, 20 % on dairy

To compensate for the damage done to the environment and to get people to eat less meat, the tax would have to add 40 % to beef and 20 % to dairy products, according to a 2016 study. Chicken meat would get an 8.5 % tax. On an annual basis, such a tax would save 500,000 lives and bring down greenhouse gas emissions.


Even though a meat tax is often considered a political impossibility, a British study from 2015 showed that consumers are more willing to accept it than governments believe. The study also revealed that few people are aware of meat consumption’s damaging effects. Consumers expect the government to take charge of the situation. 


An alternative is to find a more sustainable meat cultivation, like laboratory meat or how to lower livestock’s greenhouse gas emissions. An environmentally friendly livestock sounds utopian today, but there have been successful trials with lab meat already.