Largest Meat and Dairy Companies Fail to Reduce Emissions

Cows on a farm raised as livestock

(Credit: Unsplash)

by | Nov 15, 2023

A recent report has found that twenty of the largest meat and dairy producers have experienced a 3.28% rise in disclosed emissions since last year.

Findings, taken from the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index, revealed that despite some companies setting reduction targets, emissions have risen in the industry year on year for corporations such as Walmart and Mcdonald’s. Other major firms such as Hormel Foods and New Hope Liuhe also reported increased emissions.

Few Companies Have Set Emissions Targets, Some Firms Have Achieved Reductions

The report also found that only four of the 20 firms have set net-zero targets approved by the Science-Based Targets Initiative. Two such companies, Tyson and Danone, reportedly both successfully reduced emissions, but reductions were outweighed by the impacts of other companies.

The report explains that eight of the 20 firms now disclose Scope 3 emissions, which cover emissions from companies’ supply chains, with Tyson and WH Group disclosing all three scopes for the first time this year.

According to Jeremy Coller, Chair and Founder of the FAIRR network, the widespread failure of meat and dairy companies to reduce emissions points to a need for policy-backed climate targets for the food and agricultural sector.

Findings in Food, Agricultural Sector Inform Upcoming COP28

The Science-Based Targets initiative recommends that the food and agricultural sector cut emissions by 3% each year between 2020 and 2030. With COP28 on the horizon, the FAIRR report said world leaders should focus on the food and agriculture industry. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization is also reportedly set to reveal a net-zero roadmap for the sector, according to a Time report.

The sector’s emissions impact is largely attributed to methane from livestock, which has been found to be over 25 times more potent than carbon emissions. The International Energy Agency released a report earlier this year explaining that cutting methane emissions needs to be a larger priority in order to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, as decided in the Paris Agreement.

A number of recommended decarbonization strategies have been proposed for the emissions-heavy sector, such as improved manure management, feed additives for livestock, or switching to renewable energy to power farm operations. Aside from company-based efforts to reduce emissions, multiple sources have emphasized that if consumers reduce meat and dairy intake, or adopt a plant-based or plant-heavy diet, immense global methane emissions reductions may be achieved. With combined efforts, the UN said that methane emissions may be reduced by 45% within this decade.

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