A 'climate cost' would see animal products soar in price by up to 146%, but is this really the solution to the environmental crisis?
A new report from the University of Ausburg in Germany has stated that if the costs of environmental damage caused by food production were added to current food prices, meat prices would more than double.
The costs of greenhouse gases emitted and land usage is currently not reflected in the prices of different food products. However, if the so-called ‘climate cost’ was added, meat prices would rise by 146%, while dairy products would be 91% more expensive.
Price increases would be lower for organic products, however, at 40% and 71% for organic dairy and meat respectively. This is due to those products already having a higher price tag, and not just because the emission levels are slightly lower.
Moreover, the study recognised that in contrast, plant foods had a ‘relatively low “climate backpack”, in the single-digit range’.
This research follows calls for a ‘meat tax’ to be imposed on products of animal agriculture which are not only damaging our health but the environment too. An increase of 146% on meat prices may seem a steep personal cost, but the climate cost of these products simply cannot be ignored any longer.
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‘Much less in demand’
“We ourselves were surprised by the big difference between the food groups investigated and the resulting mispricing of animal-based food products in particular,” said lead researcher Dr Tobias Gaugler about the results.
“If these market mispricing errors were to cease to exist or at least be reduced, this would also have a major impact on the demand for food. Food that becomes significantly more expensive will also be much less in demand,” added his co-author, Amelie Michalke.
The reality is that if the environmental cost was added to animal products, they wouldn’t be so cheap and readily available for consumers, and would likely be eaten less frequently. Not only would this benefit the environment, but human health too.
Is raising meat prices really the solution?
Unfortunately, it has been pointed out that a ‘meat tax’ would only hurt the poorer in our society. Raising the prices would put the weight of environmentally conscious decisions on the shoulders of those who cannot afford to pay, and not society as a whole.
Many people on low incomes rely on cheap animal products to feed their families on a budget. Therefore, taking away these easy choices only puts poorer families closer to absolute poverty, while the richest in the nation continue to afford products which perpetuate the environmental disaster we are heading towards.
Moreover, the richest 1% in society are responsible for double the CO2 emissions than the poorest 50%. Individual changes such as a price increase on meat products should at the very least be coupled with wider changes such as restrictions on international companies directly causing the climate crisis.
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