EU urged to adopt ‘sustainability charge’ on meat: ‘Pricing has been kept artificially low for far too long’

By Flora Southey

- Last updated on GMT

Image source: GettyImages/Wavebreakmedia
Image source: GettyImages/Wavebreakmedia

Related tags Sustainability plant-based Beef Lamb Pork Poultry

The European Parliament is due to consider a proposal to increase the price of meat across the bloc, which not-for-profit TAPP Coalition says is designed to ‘reflect it environmental impact’.

A report calling for a new pricing model across all Member States is due to be debated by MEPs on 5 February 2020.

Written by the True Animal Protein Price (TAPP) Coalition, the report investigates the potential impact of a ‘Meat Sustainability Charge’, which it says puts the’ polluter-pays’ principle into practice.

The authors concluded that if implemented across all Member States, the sustainability charge would lead to lower meat consumption, as well as cutting people’s environmental footprint, adding that “integrating environmental costs into price facilitates sustainable choices by consumers.”

Putting a price on sustainability?

The TAPP Coalition, which counts ProVeg International, the Dutch Vegetarian Society, and Compassion in World Farming among its members, commissioned Dutch research and consultancy group CE Delft to conduct the study.

Researchers investigated the implementation of a meat sustainability charge in tandem with subsidy for the farming sector and purchasing power compensation for households.

Estimated charges are associated with the costs of greenhouse gas emissions, other pollutant emissions, land-use impacts on biodiversity and livestock disease.

The TAPP Coalition proposes that by 2030, the price of beef/veal be increased by 47 euro cents per 100g, pork by 36 euro cents per 100g, and chicken by 17 cents per 100g. Pricing reflects the fact that environmental costs per kg of beef are the highest, noted TAPP.

What is a 'sustainability charge'?

In this study a ‘sustainability charge’ is a charge equal in value (in Euros) to the social costs resulting from the environmental impacts of meat consumption, noted the TAPP Coalition.

“A sustainability charge has been chosen because this factors the social costs of meat into the price, allowing consumers to make sustainable choices based on prices.”

Researchers recommended the charge rate be gradually increased over time, starting with 10% of the external costs in 2021, to ‘full coverage’ by 2030. At this time, all environmental costs would be included in prices.

“Including the environmental cost of animal protein in the price is a crucial element of meeting EU targets for climate, biodiversity, public health, and animal welfare”- Pier Vellinga, Climate Professor and TAPP Coalition Chair

Potential outcomes

According to CE Delft’s findings, this policy would lead to a reduction in chicken consumption by 30%, pork by 57%, and beef by 67%, by 2030.

Further, ‘fair meat prices’ could lead to a reduction in CO₂-equivalent emissions of up to 120m tonnes of CO₂ per year. “This equals all CO₂ emissions from four EU Member States: Ireland, Denmark, Slovakia, and Estonia, and nearly 3% of all EU greenhouse emissions,” ​we were told.

Overall, net EU welfare impacts (benefits) could reach €8.8bn per year by 2030, and researchers calculated that Member States would receive revenues from excise taxes on meat of €32.2bn per year. 

How should these revenues be used? According to TAPP, Member States should allocate 31-46% to farmers, 22-36% towards lower VAT tariffs and consumer subsidies on vegetable and fruits, 19% to low-income households, and 12% towards supporting development countries to double nature reserves and forests, reduce greenhouse gasses, and adapt to climate change.

The TAPP Coalition proposes that by 2030, the price of beef/veal be increased by 47 euro cents per 100g ©GettyImages/500595623

ProVeg International welcomed the policy proposal, which it said balances both support for farmers and a ‘more plant-based food system’.

“The time has come for us to act decisively with policy on the environmental consequences of animal protein, the price of which has been kept artificially low for far too long,” ​said ProVeg International CEO Sebastian Joy.

“Here we have a solution that is fair for farmers and supports the transition to a more plant-based food system we so urgently need it we are serious about mitigating climate change.”  

TAPP Coalition director Jeroom Remmers stressed there could also be wider benefits of a sustainability charge. “If EU meat consumption reduces and plant-based protein consumption rises, healthcare costs will reduce too, as Europeans eat roughly 50% more meat than is recommended in dietary health guidelines. We could also save billions of euros every year in lower healthcare costs.”​ 

TAPP Coalition’s report ‘Aligning food pricing policies with the European Green Deal - true pricing of meat and dairy in Europe, including CO2​ costs’ and CE Delft’s ‘A Sustainability Charge on Meat’ will be published 4 February 2020 here​.

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