The study states that if animal products included the cost of their carbon footprints, their prices would hit the roof.
A new report published in the journal Nature Communications states that meat could cost 146 % more if the polluter-pays principle was applied to various processes of meat production.
According to the study the ‘consequential costs of the greenhouse gases emitted’ and the resulting ‘climate impacts’ would make animal products such as milk, cheese and especially meat grossly expensive.
The current study, which is primarily concerned with the climate impacts resulting from the production and consumption of food, showed that even dairy products would cost 91% more than they are today and prices for organic foods would surge as well with organic meat being 71% more expensive and organic dairy costing 40 % more.
Agriculture led greenhouse gases
The study states: “Agriculture is one of the main sources of man-made greenhouse gases, accounting for 24 % of global emissions.
“This figure alone shows how great is the need for adjustment, but also the potential of the primary sector to achieve the climate targets of the Paris Agreement, to keep global warming at a level well below 2° C.
“The ‘European Green Deal’, which aims to reduce the European Union’s net emissions of greenhouse gases to zero by 2050, can also only be achieved with the involvement of agriculture.”
Extent of climate damage
In order to illustrate the extent of climate damage by animal agriculture, the researchers determined which emissions occurred at which points in food production for different types of cultivation and husbandry and mapped them to the various food products according to their source.
In addition to carbon dioxide, the authors also included nitrous oxide and methane emissions in their calculations. They also determined the climatic effects of land use change caused by the draining of peatlands and the deforestation of rainforest areas, which are then used for the production of animal feed.
After monetizing these parameters, which means converting them into food-specific consequential costs, the authors compared the resulting values to the food prices currently observable on the market.
“We ourselves were surprised by the big difference between the food groups investigated and the resulting mispricing of animal-based food products in particular,” economist and sustainability researcher as well as lead author of the study, Tobias Gaugler said.
“If these market mispricing errors were to cease to exist or at least be reduced, this would also have a major impact on the demand for food,” co-author Amelie Michalke said.
She added: “A food that becomes significantly more expensive will also be much less in demand.”
The authors revealed that they now intend to investigate further environmental impacts of agriculture, such as those resulting from the emission of reactive nitrogen compounds or the energy requirements of the agricultural sector.
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