Paying for meat’s damage to the environment

The production of meat and dairy products are causing a fortune’s worth of damage due to their effect on global warming. While estimates vary, up to 51% of all greenhouse gases are said to be produced as a result of animal agriculture.

Here’s something to think about. What would happen to the price of meat and dairy products if we included the cost of the damage done by the greenhouse emissions generated from raising meat and dairy? It turns out that the prices would go sky high. It’s estimated that the price of meat would increase by 146% and the price of dairy would rise by 91% if we charged food production companies for their impact on climate change, while the cost of plant-based foods would increase by only 6%. As you can see there’s a big difference.

Now these figures, as high as they are, don’t include the cost of the damage raising meat causes on other aspects of the environment.  For example, animal agriculture is also devastating in terms of water pollution, soil erosion and the burning of the rainforests. If these were taken into account as well, you would see an even higher increase in the cost of meat and dairy.

Add to this the health care costs of diseases caused or exacerbated by meat and dairy consumption and those figures would shoot through the roof. Of course, there are some things you can’t put a price on. There’s no way to put a price on the pain animals go through on factory farms and in the slaughterhouses.

It’s time we started pricing food products to take into account their external costs such as impact on the environment and on our health system, to encourage people to think about their food choices more carefully and choose foods which have less impact on the earth and others who share it.