In order to reduce greenhouse gases and to sustain the environment Swedish agricultural authorities are suggesting a tax to tame the appetite for meat. The more meat is consumed the more feed is needed to meet this demand, and with the extensive drought the occured in the US and feed shortages elsewhere in the world. Could this be a viable solution?
Last year the average Swede consumed 87 kilos of meat with beef and veal being the most consumed. Marit Paulsen a Swedish MeP who is vice president of the European Parliament’s agriculture committee said she would prefer the Swedish meat consumption to shrink to 45-50 kilos per person per year which was the level 20 years ago.
Nutrient run-off and pesticide use in agriculture is influenced by the amount of meat we consume, from which animals the meat comes and what feed they eat. Reduced nutrient run-off and reduced pesticide use can also be achieved by improving production methods at the farm level.
Consumers can contribute to sustainable food production by avoiding the meat that is worst from a sustainability perspective. Labelling is one way to make it easier for consumers to choose meat that is more sustainable.
There are also positive environmental impacts from meat production. Grazing animals are required in order to preserve Swedish semi-natural pastures. These pastures are important for biodiversity and rural landscapes. However, particularly for beef there is a conflict of interest between preserving pastures and jobs and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.