The combined methane emissions of 15 of the world’s largest meat and dairy companies are higher than those of several of the world’s largest countries, including Russia, Canada and Australia, according to a new study.
the analysis of the Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy and the Changing Markets Foundation found that emissions from companies (five meat and 10 dairy corporations) equal more than 80% of the total methane footprint of the European Union and represent 11.1% of global emissions related to livestock. methane emissions.
“That blew my mind,” said Shefali Sharma, director of the IATP’s European office. “We cannot continue to have this handful of companies controlling so many animals.”
Methane, expelled by cows and their manure, is much more potent than carbon dioxide, traps heat 80 times more efficiently, and emissions are accelerating rapidlyaccording to the UN.
The researchers admit in the report that a lack of transparency by companies makes it difficult to accurately measure greenhouse gas emissions. Results were estimated based on publicly available data on meat and milk production and regional livestock practices.
The report comes as the Cop27 climate conference is taking place in Egypt, where politicians and corporate leaders are discussing the role of agriculture and facing accusations that they are not considering meaningful solutions.
If the 15 companies were treated as one country, the report noted, it would be the 10th largest greenhouse gas emitting jurisdiction in the world. Their combined emissions exceed those of oil companies such as ExxonMobil, BP and Shell, the researchers found.
The researchers singled out individual livestock companies such as JBS, the world’s largest meat company, and French dairy giant Danone.
JBS’s methane emissions “far exceed all other companies,” according to the report, surpassing the combined livestock emissions of France, Germany, Canada and New Zealand.
The world’s second-biggest meat company, Tyson, produces roughly as much methane for livestock as Russia, the researchers said, and Dairy Farmers of America produces as much as the UK.
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 company’s report’s comparison to UK emissions “is not an apples-to-apples comparison and is clearly an attempt to generate sensational headlines.” Dairy Farmers of America “is committed to being a part of climate solutions,” the organization added.
The report recommended reforms to help curb emissions and climate change, including governments requiring companies to report greenhouse gas emissions and encouraging a “just transition” away from factory farming by reducing the amount of animals per farm. Companies should also set targets to reduce emissions and be more transparent about methane production, the report concluded.
The United States has resisted regulating methane emissions from farms, choosing instead to offer voluntary incentives farmers and businesses to reduce greenhouse gases. But change is unlikely unless the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to regulate those emissions, said Cathy Day, climate policy coordinator for the National Coalition for Sustainable Agriculture.
“There is a narrative to focus only on incentives, to focus on environmental problems by paying people to fix them instead of requiring people to fix them,” he said. “My view is that we will not get there without regulatory solutions.”
The 15 companies studied are based in 10 countries, five of which have increased methane emissions from livestock in the past decade, according to the report. China’s emissions have increased by 17%, much more than in other countries.
While it would help if people ate less meat and dairy, Sharma said, the real solution to reducing methane emissions was to end factory farming.
“We are not saying that people should go vegan or vegetarian,” Sharma said. “We’re just saying we have to do better.”