Taxing Meat can Protect the Environment: New Study by Oxford, PIK, and TU Berlin

17/01/2022 - A 20-60 % increase in prices for meat through a tax could be an important lever for aligning Western diets with environmental goals and can be designed such that low-income households and farmers are compensated.
Taxing Meat can Protect the Environment: New Study by Oxford, PIK, and TU Berlin
A key advantage of meat taxes, according to researchers, is their capacity to generate revenues.

A forthcoming paper in the Review of Environmental Economics and Policy explores an environmental tax on meat in countries like the UK, US, and Australia to increase its price by 20-60%, depending on the meat type. This would reduce consumption of the most damaging foods and could provide revenue for sustainable farming practices and to support low-income families. The authors stress that taxing meat directly is a simple tool if more targeted and efficient policy options, such as extending carbon pricing to the livestock sector, are not available.

“Livestock farming is a huge contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, soil and water pollution, and precious forests are being cleared for pastures and food crops. Evidence suggests the environmental impacts are so large that the world can’t meet climate goals and keep vital ecosystems intact without reducing the consumption of meat – at least in Western high-income countries,” said Professor Linus Mattauch from the Institute for New Economic Thinking at the Oxford Martin School and the Technical University of Berlin. “While that does not mean that people will have to entirely cut out all meat, future diets would have to incorporate more plant-based proteins, perhaps as well as novel meat replacements. Alongside other measures, consumption taxes on meat could be an important lever to incentivize that transition.”

The paper suggests that the average retail price for meat in high-income countries would need to increase by 35-56% for beef, 25% for poultry, and 19% for lamb and pork to reflect the environmental impacts of their production. However, this is only a first calculation and does not consider the damage caused by biodiversity loss, the negative health impacts of meat consumption for humans, and animal welfare.

(News adapted from University of Oxford/ Oxford Martin School, see here)


Franziska Funke, Linus Mattauch, Inge van den Bijgaart, Charles Godfray, Cameron Hepburn, David Klenert, Marco Springmann, Nicolas Treich: „Is Meat Too Cheap? Towards Optimal Meat Taxation“ (2022), erschienen in: Review of Environmental Economics and Policy


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