Do you enjoy a grilled hamburger on a summer day? Or how about a juicy steak on Sunday night? If so, you better start pinching pennies. Red meat could be the next product in line for a special luxury tax.
Meat is on the defensive these days … er, more than usual. We’re used to the typical voices, like PETA, complaining about animal welfare on so-called “factory” farms. Within the last few years, we’ve seen meat linked with all sorts of ill-health effects. And people are being told to lessen their consumption for health reasons.
But with shocking efficiency, anti-meat voices have successfully labeled meat as the biggest contributor to climate change. And now the chorus is telling us that we absolutely must stop eating meat if we want to save the planet! Unfortunately, that line of thinking stems from a mistake. But it’s certainly taken hold and drives the conversation and headlines about climate change.
The reality is much different. While animal agriculture contributes to climate change, it’s hardly the main culprit. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, agriculture (both plant and animal) contributes only 9 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions in the United States. Transportation and electricity contribute drastically more — a whopping 56.4 percent. So meat is small potatoes (pun intended).
And cutting meat out of our diet isn’t going to make a huge difference either. Even if all Americans gave up eating meat entirely, we would only reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by 2.6 percentage points. And even if all of us agreed to participate in Meatless Mondays, the reduction would only amount to 0.5 percentage points. Compared to all the other things contributing to climate change, this literally seems like the least effective approach.
But that isn’t the narrative we’re being sold. And the anti-meat activists are latching onto this idea and working it to their advantage.
Enter the red-meat tax. The idea is only starting to percolate in Western Europe. Surprisingly, some early research shows the general European public might actually be in favor of it. Funke Media Group conducted a survey of Germans, a majority of whom think a red-meat tax is a great idea! It comes among other institutions taking a stand against meat, including London University, which just banned the sale of meat on campus.
We usually hear about these types of taxes being imposed on things like soda. The idea is pretty simple: Charging an additional tax will make the product prohibitively expensive, thus reducing demand and overall consumption. So steak and hamburgers become a luxury for special occasions, not a regular menu item.
I won’t hold my breath that it stays across the pond either. New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has already mandated the city’s schools will participate in Meatless Mondays. And several plant-based meat products are also gaining traction, with the Impossible Burger now available nationwide at Burger King. Another company has launched dairy-free ice cream.
While it might not help the climate crisis, it does create other problems. It makes it more difficult for people to afford an important source of protein. It hurts the family farmers raising these animals. And it hurts the family farms producing the feed for those animals.
But that’s precisely what the anti-meat activists want.
Unfortunately, agriculture seems content with allowing these voices to drive the conversation and the narrative. If we don’t start speaking up to correct this misconception, I’m afraid we’re going to find ourselves paying a specialty tax just to eat our favorite red meats.
Amanda Zaluckyj blogs under the name The Farmer’s Daughter USA. Her goal is to promote farmers and tackle the misinformation swirling around the U.S. food industry.