20 Livestock Companies Emit More than Britain, France, or Germany

20 Livestock Companies Emit More than Britain, France, or Germany

A new report, Meat Atlas 2021, shows that 20 milk and livestock companies produce more greenhouse gas emissions than Britain, France, or Germany, and the world's five biggest meat and dairy companies emit the same volume of GHGs as fossil fuel giant ExxonMobil. Worse, over 2,500 investment firms, banks, and pension funds have been giving these companies billions of dollars. Between 2015 and 2020, meat and dairy companies across the globe acquired $478 billion dollars.

A Meat Atlas 2021 graphic shows greenhouse gas emissions of leading meat and milk firms. (Source: Bartz/Stockmar CC-BY 4.0.)

Why this Matters

Livestock agriculture produces 14.5% of the world's greenhouse gas emissions. By this point, it's common knowledge that people in rich countries should eat less meat and dairy to lower their carbon footprint.

But this report shows that the meat industry is still growing -- and it's not slowing down any time soon. The report calculates that meat production could increase by 40 million metric tons by 2029, with 60% of this meat coming from the US, EU, China, and Brazil.

"To keep up with this [level of animal protein production] industrial animal farming is on the rise and keeps pushing sustainable models out of the market," the report says.

​​Across the world, three-quarters of all agricultural land is used to raise animals or the crops to feed them. (Source: Meat Atlas 2021/OECD, FAO.)

Reining in the Livestock Industry

According to the report, three-quarters of all agricultural land is used to raise animals or crops for animal feed. "In Brazil alone, 175m hectares (about 432 million acres) is dedicated to raising cattle," which is about the size of the "entire agricultural area of the European Union."

In order to cut down on livestock emissions, we need to better regulate the meat industry. It's imperative that private banks, investors, and development banks such as the World Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development cease financing large-scale animal agriculture projects. Some groups have already started taking action -- in England and Wales, the National Farmers' Union has set a target of reaching net-zero greenhouse gas emissions in agriculture by 2040.

But we also have to change the way we eat. Stanka Becheva, a food and agriculture campaigner working with Friends of the Earth, told the Guardian that even trendy alternative meat options are not enough: "This is all for-profit and is not really addressing the fundamental issues we see in the current animal protein-centred food system that is having a devastating impact on climate, biodiversity and is actually harming people around the globe."

Meat Atlas 2021: Facts and figures about the animals we eat (teaser), September 8, 2021.

Sentient Media: Food System Emissions - How Can We Reduce Our Carbon Footprint?, June 18, 2021.