- The North American Meat Institute said 81% of meat company members — including Tyson, Cargill and Hormel — have respective commitments to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new report by the trade group.
- The group said in the report that by 2030, 100% of its members will have individual plans, developed alongside the Science-Based Targets initiative, to reduce their methane emissions.
- The United Nations’ COP27 climate conference is next week in Egypt. At last year’s conference, 105 countries including the U.S. agreed to lower methane emissions by 30% by 2030, and people concerned about the environment often focus on emissions from the meat industry.
NAMI — which represents 95% of the nation’s meat processors — has emphasized sustainability in recent years amid growing calls from researchers to eat less meat because of the industry’s carbon footprint.
Environmental groups remain critical of the meat industry’s role in fueling the climate crisis. Some have pointed to statistics, including some from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN that indicate 14.5% of manmade emissions come from the livestock industry.
The meat industry’s role in the production of methane, a powerful greenhouse gas roughly 25 times more potent than carbon dioxide according to the EPA, is one focus of environmental groups’ critique. Cows produce the gas during their digestive process.
FAIRR, an investor group that manages $45 trillion in assets, said in a report last December only 18% of meat and dairy companies track methane emissions. According to FAIRR, meat companies have not been transparent about how they plan to lower their methane emissions. Among the meat companies that do track their methane, the gas makes up roughly a fifth of Tyson’s direct emissions. For Hormel, methane is about a third of their direct emissions, and JBS says it’s about half of theirs.
The NAMI report does not specify how companies are targeting specific greenhouse gases — such as carbon or methane — beyond stating that they track them. Environmentalists eager for meat processors to provide more transparency about these concrete goals will not find them in NAMI’s report.
In a statement, NAMI president and CEO Julie Anna Potts emphasized the meat industry’s role in finding sustainable solutions for the planet.
“The Meat Institute’s first-ever continuous improvement report is a game changer for transparency in the sector – setting transparent baselines that will allow us to measure progress and verify our sector’s contributions to global goals,” Potts said.
NAMI underscored meat’s importance with statistics from a report from the Food Industry Association (FMI), which found that 98% of U.S. households purchase meat, and 75% of Americans surveyed said meat belongs in a healthy, balanced diet.
Animal feed-based solutions to lower methane from cattle are in development and will likely gain wider adoption in the CPG space in the coming years. Red seaweed may lower methane emissions by 98% in cattle, according to the EPA. Beef giant JBS said it is partnering with ingredients maker Royal DSM on a feed additive that suppresses the enzyme producing methane by 90%. DSM North America president Hugh Welsh told Food Dive earlier this year that the additive is under review with the FDA which could delay its approval.
Other solutions have aimed to repurpose the methane emitted in the meat supply chain. Various farmers use digesters in order to convert manure into renewable energy, a practice supported by EPA grants, according to a report from Yale Climate Connections.