A new study shows that the combined methane emissions of 15 of the world’s largest meat and dairy companies are higher than those produced by many of the world’s largest countries, including Russia, Canada and Australia.
The analysis by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and Changing Markets found that emissions from companies – five meat companies and 10 dairy companies – equate to more than 80% of total methane emissions in the European Union and represent 11.1% of the world’s livestock-related emissions. methane;
“It surprised me,” said Shefali Sharma, director of the IATP’s European office. “We can’t keep having this few companies control so many animals.”
Methane, which is expelled by cows and their dung, is much more powerful than carbon dioxide, trapping heat 80 times more effectively and emissions accelerating rapidly, according to the United Nations.
In the report, the researchers acknowledge that a lack of transparency on the part of companies makes it difficult to accurately measure greenhouse gas emissions. Results were estimated based on publicly available data on meat and dairy production and regional livestock practices.
The report comes as the Cop27 climate conference kicks off in Egypt, where politicians and business leaders debate the role of agriculture and face accusations of failing to think of feasible solutions.
The report indicated that if the 15 companies were treated as a country, it would be the tenth largest greenhouse gas emitting jurisdiction in the world. The researchers found that their combined emissions exceed those of oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell.
The researchers identified individual livestock companies such as JBS, the world’s largest meat company, and French dairy giant Danone.
According to the report, JBS’s methane emissions “far outpace all other companies,” surpassing livestock emissions combined in France, Germany, Canada and New Zealand.
The world’s second largest meat company, Tyson, produces nearly as much animal methane as Russia’s, the researchers said, and America’s dairy farmers produce the same amount as the United Kingdom’s.
JBS did not respond to requests for comment.
Tyson and Dairy Farmers of America declined interview requests. A spokesperson for Dairy Farmers of America said in an email that the report’s comparison between the company and UK emissions “is not a comparison of apples to apples and is clearly an attempt to make exciting headlines”. The organization added that Dairy Farmers of America is “committed to being part of climate solutions.”
The report recommended reforms to help curb emissions and climate breakdown, including requiring governments to report on greenhouse gas emissions and promoting a “fair transition” away from factory farming by reducing the number of animals on each farm. The report concluded that companies should also set targets to reduce emissions and be more transparent about methane production.
The United States has resisted regulating methane emissions from farms, opting instead to offer voluntary incentives to farmers and businesses to reduce greenhouse gases. Change is unlikely unless the EPA is allowed to regulate those emissions, said Cathy Day, climate policy coordinator with the National Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture.
“There is a narrative to focus on incentives only, to focus on environmental problems by paying people to solve them rather than asking people to solve them,” she said. “My view is that we don’t get there without regulatory solutions.”
The 15 companies surveyed are located in 10 countries, five of which have increased methane emissions from livestock in the past decade, the report said. China’s emissions increased by 17%, which is much higher than other countries.
Sharma said that while it would be beneficial for people to eat less meat and dairy, the real solution to reducing methane emissions is to end factory farming.
“We are not saying that people should be vegetarian or vegan,” Sharma said. “We’re just saying we need to do it better.”