• The world’s five largest meat and dairy companies are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the major oil companies. That’s the result of a new study.
  • They damage the climate significantly more than previously thought.
  • According to calculations, annual meat consumption would have to drop to 22 kilos per person by 2030 in order to limit the global rise in temperature to a maximum of two degrees Celsius. 

Cows release large amounts of methane gas during digestion, and this damages the climate. When meat and milk are processed and transported, further emissions arise. How much the industry contributes to rapid global warming is shown by a new study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the environmental organization Grain. Their conclusion is: „Together, the five largest meat and dairy companies are already responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions per year than the oil companies Exxon-Mobil, Shell or BP.“ If the industry continues to grow at its current rate, the entire livestock will consume about 80 percent of the Earth’s greenhouse gas budget by 2050, the estimate says. „The report shows the key role these companies play in causing climate change,“ says Shefali Sharma, director of the IATP Institute.

JBS, the world’s largest meat company from Brazil, cites the list of the largest CO₂ producers in the study. It is followed by three US corporations: Tyson Foods, Cargill and Dairy Farmers. Germany’s largest dairy company DMK is ranked 21st, the meat company Tönnies is ranked 24th.According to one study, meat consumption harms the climate significantly more than previously thought. Accordingly, the five largest meat and dairy companies in the world are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the big oil companies. 

The makers of the study criticize that a large number of companies in their CO₂ balance much too low values. „Most of the 35 largest meat and dairy companies either do not report on their greenhouse gas emissions or exclude emissions in the supply chain,“ the report says. But these accounted for 80 to 90 percent of their total emissions. Only four groups have reported complete, traceable emission data: Nestlé (Switzerland), Danone (France), Friesland / Campina (Netherlands) and NH Foods (Japan).

At the climate summit in Paris in 2015, countries had agreed that the food sector should also reduce emissions. Exact goals and obligatory guidelines for companies and agriculture do not exist until today. In reality, the growth targets of many companies are in stark contradiction to the climate protection goals. For example, the meat giant JBS has promised its investors that global consumption will rise by 30 percent on average by 2030, from 37 to 48 kilograms of meat per capita.

In fact, however, exactly the opposite would be necessary to limit the increase in the global average temperature to a maximum of two, better still 1.5 degrees Celsius. According to calculations by Greenpeace, meat consumption would have to drop to 22 kilos per year by 2030 and even to 16 kilos per person by 2050. The United Nations-based FAO has also been warning for some time about the negative consequences of high consumption of meat and milk.