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Investigation: Climate narratives of the meat industry


This investigation by international media outlet DeSmog examines how ten large meat industry organisations are portraying their activities as climate-friendly through their public messaging. It identifies which narratives about meat and climate are used by each of the ten organisations.

It finds four main narrative strategies used by at least some of these organisations:

  1. Excluding Scope 3 emissions including those from crop cultivation for animal feed and land use (and land use change) for cattle grazing, so that reported emissions appear low. Self-reported emissions for some meat companies were found to be several tens of times lower than those calculated by third parties (the non-profit GRAIN and the US research organisation the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy).
  2. Arguing that the meat industry must be expanded to feed the world’s growing population and hence that the industry is contributing to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal of achieving zero hunger. DeSmog’s counterpoint is that the UN advocates for supporting smallholder farmers instead of expanding large-scale industrial meat production.
  3. Undermining the concept that reducing or replacing meat in diets is an effective climate strategy, with one company saying that the EAT-Lancet report (which promotes a low-meat diet) is “elitist,” “biased,” and “not scientifically well-founded.”
  4. Focusing on technological fixes to reduce the emissions of livestock agriculture. Critics say that solutions such as manure management do not tackle most of the meat industry’s emissions, and that it is unclear whether “regenerative” agriculture can sequester enough carbon to offset the emissions of meat production. (See the 2017 TABLE report Grazed and Confused for more on the question of whether soil carbon sequestration can offset methane emissions from livestock.)

Read the full story, Investigation: How the Meat Industry is Climate-Washing its Polluting Business Model, here. See also the TABLE explainer Focus: the difficult livestock issue.

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