Could meat soon be taxed like cigarettes or alcohol? If some anti-meat crusaders have their way, the alarming answer could be yes.
A recent article featured on The Huffington Post, titled “The case for a meat tax,” argues several reasons for implementing such a tax, including curbing emissions, improving people’s health and generating tax revenue. Written by Jenny Che, the article is plagued by inaccuracies, but unfortunately, the typical reader probably won’t spot them.
Here are three reasons a meat tax won’t work, based on the arguments cited in the article:
1. Taxing meat won’t significantly curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Che cites an inaccurate U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization study that claims livestock production generates nearly 15% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. However, according to Frank Mitloehner, an internationally-renowned authority on agricultural air quality, animal-environmental interactions, and environmental engineering at the University of California-Davis, the entire agricultural industry — not just livestock production — contributes a mere 5.8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.
2. Taxing meat won’t improve people’s health.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC) claimed that red meat consumption “probably” causes cancer. Ignoring a large body of evidence submitted by researchers proving that red meat is a healthy, wholesome food that is abundantly rich in nutrients, IARC irresponsibly lumped red meat in the same category as smoking cigarettes or drinking too much alcohol. However, after much public outcry from consumers and the scientific community, WHO backtracked on its previous recommendations, stating that there are shortcomings with IARC’s classifications which allow the results to be misinterpreted.
The point is, it seems like every day there is a new headline urging folks to go meatless or warning consumers about the dangers of red meat. However, with beef’s nutritional profile including zinc, iron, protein, B-vitamins, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, it’s hard to beat this superfood. And it’s becoming quite obvious that health professionals and nutritionists are basing their recommendations on their own personal biases and belief, not on actual sound science.
3. Taxing meat will hurt the world’s growing middle class.
According to the article, “Researchers at Chatham House, a London-based policy institute, surveyed people across 12 countries and focus groups in Brazil, China, the United Kingdom and the United States, and found that many would welcome a food charge if it helped alleviate high emissions levels -- though concerns about costs and alternatives to meat remain.”
If the U.S. is joined by other countries around the globe in taxing meat, this would be incredibly harmful to the world’s growing middle class, who now have a little extra disposable income and are seeking red meat as a more nutrient-rich, tasty protein source than rice and beans.
"There's concern about prices and the impact on poorer people,” said Antony Froggatt, a senior research fellow at the institute who co-authored the study. “Unless alternatives are easily available, something like a meat tax would be detrimental.”
Take a look at the cost of alternative protein sources like tofu, quinoa or other “health foods.” The sticker price isn’t cheap, and the quantity needed to reach the same protein levels found in a 3-oz. serving of beef would raise the price per family even higher.
I vehemently oppose a meat tax, but I wouldn’t be shocked if one was introduced in the U.S. in the near future. The misconceptions about beef continue to circulate, and we must continue to share factual information with our consumers about the benefits of beef in their diets and the role beef cattle play in the ecosystem.
What do you think about a meat tax? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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