More than a third of the cereal grains grown globally are used for animal feed and around 80 percent of global arable land is used for grazing animals, some of it claimed from former forest and even rainforest areas. This drives a staggering loss of biodiversity, together with other local environmental impacts like soil erosion and pollution of local water resources from both animal waste and excess fertiliser use on feed crops. On a global scale, food production is responsible for one-third of all planet-heating emissions, with the use of animals for meat accounting for twice the pollution from producing plant-based foods.
Many thought that the energy shock of 2022 would see countries backing down from the commitment to climate as priorities suddenly shifted to merely avoiding blackouts and keeping warm in the coming winters. But we can’t overestimate the rising commitment, particularly in Europe, to climate priorities, even in the face of the current energy shock. And climate change and related policy isn’t just about energy, but also food. To meet the target of net-zero emissions by 2050, one report estimates that meat consumption must be reduced to 24 kg per person per year, compared with the current OECD average of around 70 kg. Countries most likely to consider the food angle on climate change will be those that have legally binding net-zero emissions targets. Sweden has pledged to reach carbon neutrality by 2045, while others like the UK, France and Denmark are aiming for 2050.
But a carrot and stick approach rarely works, and in 2023, at least one country looking to front-run others in marking out its lead in the race for most aggressive climate policy, moves to heavily tax meat on a rising scale beginning in 2025. In addition, it plans to ban all domestically produced live animal-sourced meat entirely by 2030, figuring that improved plant-derived artificial meats and even more humane, less-emissions intensive lab-grown meat technologies will have to satisfy appetites to help save the environment and climate.
Market impact: Equities like traditional “ESG-lite” Tyson foods suffer steep drawdowns until they begin investing in sustainable and even lab-grown meat.