Meat tax proposal labelled ‘unrealistic’
Published:  08 December, 2015

A proposed tax on meat to help decrease consumption has been labelled as “unrealistic” by AHDB Beef & Lamb. 

The proposal was put forward in a Chatham House report, highlighting the relationship between the consumption of meat and the impact it has on global warming.

The report, Changing Climate, Changing Diets, which received contribution from Glasgow University Media Group, recognised that the agricultural sector is a major contributor towards climate change, emitting 15% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

It reported that animal and crop production for feed alone contributed towards almost a “third of global deforestation and associated carbon dioxide emissions” and were a key source of methane and nitrous oxide, two of the most damaging GHGs.

The paper suggested introducing a tax method to decrease the consumption of meat and subsequent GHG emissions. However, this has received some criticism. Andy Hutson, corporate affairs manager for AHDB Beef & Lamb called the proposed tax “unrealistic”, saying that it could lead to a “social divide where poorer families could be priced out of the consumer market”.

“The reality is that consumption of beef and lamb in the UK is not as high as historical levels, as protein becomes relatively more expensive in the shopping basket after years of cheap food,” he said. “For example, per capita consumption in 2000 was 24.7kg. If you look back even further to 1990 it was 26.7kg. In 2014 per capita consumption was 22.4kg. Meanwhile, poultry consumption has grown from 30.5kg in 2000 to 33kg in 2014.”

According to Hutson, the UK is helping to lead the way in livestock efficiency: “In the UK, our rain-fed pasture system means we have one of the most efficient and sustainable livestock production systems in the world. Research suggests that between 1970 and 2010, the beef carbon footprint in England fell by more than a third.”

One of the report’s authors, Antony Froggatt told Meat Trades Journal: “For me, the basic premise of the project is realising that, on the global level, we need to reduce global GHG emissions if we are to meet projected, internationally agreed targets,” he added. “It’s the recognition that agriculture and livestock needs to do its bit to both reduce its emissions and, probably more importantly, to slow down the rate of growth of emissions that are expected, given the fact that through to around 2050, the sector is expected to grow by 76%.”