Only four of the 35 largest global meat and dairy companies have reported “complete, credible emissions estimates”.
A report by non-profit Grain and the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) said just 14 of these companies had set themselves any form of emissions reduction targets, and only six set targets that included supply chain emissions, despite them accounting for 80-90% of a firm's total greenhouse gas emissions.
The report added that many of the biggest producers were vertically integrated companies, meaning they had significant, if not direct, control over the emissions in their supply chains.
“As vertically integrated businesses, [these companies] exercise significant and often direct control over their supply chains, including feedlot and processing operations, contract farming systems and feed production units,” the report said.
“It is thus critical that big meat and dairy companies be held directly accountable for the upstream supply chain emissions, and denied the ability to shift blame (and costs) onto their farmer suppliers or the public.”
Estimating the emissions of the top five producers - JBS, Tyson Foods, Cargill, Dairy Farmers of America and Fonterra - the report said their combined emissions were already greater than any of the three biggest oil producers, Exxon-Mobil, Shell and BP. “Taken together, the top 20 meat and dairy industry emitters produce more emissions than many OECD countries,” it said.
The meat and dairy industry was also criticised in the report for not contributing to the Paris accord to limit global temperature rises below 2C. It said if the sector continues to increase production while the energy, transport and other sectors meet their Paris targets, the livestock sector will account for 80% of the global emissions “budget” in 32 years.
The report said of the six firms that were planning cuts in emissions, all were doing so on a “per kilo” basis while still planning to expand production, which would still see an increase in overall emissions. “While intensity may be kept in check or even reduced, total emissions will continue to rise in tandem with production,” it said.
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