Governmental dietary guidelines have been a common practice for a while. With the further research on nutrition and how it has an effect on health, it’s been on everyone’s interest to provide information on how to keep a healthy diet.
However, giving consumers the right information doesn’t mean they will take the right choices. Therefore, in order to improve population’s eating habits, a more pro-active approach is required.
In that sense, United Kingdom opened an interesting option last year by creating a “sugar tax”, to be introduced in 2018, following previous initiatives like the sugar tax introduced in California in 2015, which set a rate of 10% (or one penny per fluid ounce) for the sugar used on soft drinks.
Nowadays, it seems that this way of tackling a nutrition problem may be applied to other product which consumption is way over the recommended amount in most developed countries: meat. Beyond any ethical controversy, the current consumption of meat is not only suboptimal for what our bodies require, but also has a strong and negative effect on the environment by the sub-production of greenhouse gas emissions.
This very month, the investment network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (FAIRR) released a report claiming that countries could set some taxation on meat to lower its consumption as well as the carbon emissions derived from its production. Maria Lettini, Director of FAIRR, said that “agriculture emissions alone will be so high by 2050, that that alone will push temperatures above 2 degrees”, which crosses paths directly with the 2 degrees target set during the Paris Agreement.
In Europe, some of the countries at the cutting edge on green policy like Germany and the Scandinavian region are currently discussing the possible introduction of this measure, although getting the support to bring forward such measure is going to be challenging. Such a coercive policy would find opposition not only on meat producers, but also in all the industries connected with it (such as distribution, crops…), and even on consumers.
Nevertheless, the need of introducing this tax oversteps the nutrition perspective, since the environmental impact of meat production is so big. Earlier this month, a report issued by researchers from the Netherlands took the average diets of people in 37 countries and compared them to government guidelines. Results where outstanding: if consumers actually followed the diets recommended by the government, the emission of greenhouse gases could drop up to almost 25% in high-income countries.
Therefore, the possibility of introducing a meat tax in the next years seems to be not only a matter of health but also of supporting countries on reaching their emission goals. A win-win policy.