MATTHEW FEARGRIEVE examines how the meat industry is applying blockchain technology to the processing of livestock in a way that is being welcomed by animal welfare groups, consumers and investors alike.
We have been eating animals for thousands of years. Throughout the post-war era, industrialisation and higher disposable incomes in developed nations boosted meat consumption. In under than two decades, however, our increased awareness of environmental damage has thrown a spotlight on the industry which has made its main players squirm.
A report entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow”, published in 2006 by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, estimated that greenhouse gas emissions produced by the meat industry were potentially greater than that of the global transport sector, and at minimum were around 5 per cent of global emissions.
The notion that the meat industry is as damaging to the environment as the transport sector has inevitably led to comparisons between emissions from a burger and those from a flight, with meat companies being compared to the oil majors. The industry is feeling the pressure.
A 2019 report by another UN body, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, calculated that low and middle income countries contribute 70 per cent of emissions from ruminants like cows, and 53 per cent from other animals such as pigs and chickens, whilst developed countries account for almost one-third of global greenhouse gas emissions from cows and sheep.
As the effects of the earth’s warming temperatures become more extreme, climate change campaigners, investors and consumers are increasingly scrutinising the greenhouse gas emissions attributed to the US$1.4 trillion meat industry.
Meat producers, who slaughter and process animals, are facing calls by consumers and investors for more transparency. With many governments now committing to net-zero emissions by 2050, and the US set to rejoin the Paris climate agreement, the debate is turning to risks caused by climate change with livestock rearing and processing assets becoming less viable as the earth warms up. The scrutiny of the industry’s impact on the planet is only going to increase.