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Meat is more harmful to the climate than the oil industry

When it comes to climate change, most people think of airplanes, cars or the smoking chimneys of factories. But what many people don't know is that Animal-based foods have a very significant impact on the carbon footprint. This is because meat or dairy products are much more energy-intensive to manufacture and produce than fruit and vegetables. A study by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) and the environmental organization GRAIN shows just how much meat and dairy products harm the climate.

Findings of the study for the climate

The figures in the study are shocking: the annual greenhouse gas emissions of the world's five largest meat and dairy companies are on a par with those of ExxonMobil and significantly higher than those of Shell or BP (ExxonMobil, Shell and BP are international oil companies). The 35 largest meat and dairy companies in the world were analyzed. Together, 20 of these companies produce more emissions than countries such as Germany, Canada, Australia or France! However, many of the companies either did not report their greenhouse gas emissions or reported values that were far too low. Only Nestlé, Danone, Friesland/Campina and NH Foods provided complete emission estimates.

The main reason for the high greenhouse gas emissions in meat and dairy production is cattle, which emit large quantities of methane gas during digestion. Further emissions are also caused by feed production and the processing and transportation of meat and dairy products. For example, the production of one kilogram of beef is just as harmful to the climate as a 250 km car journey. The total greenhouse gas emissions of one kilogram of meat correspond to around 36.4 carbon dioxide

Unfortunately, there is no improvement in sight for the climate. Meat consumption continues to grow - by 2030, global meat consumption is set to increase by 30%. This will cause enormous damage to the climate. According to calculations by Greenpeace, annual meat consumption would have to fall to 22 kilos by 2030 and even to 16 kg per person by 2050 in order to limit the rise in average temperatures to 1.5 degrees Celsius.


  • The world's five largest meat and dairy companies are responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than ExxonMobil, Shell or BP
  • We need to reduce global emissions by 38 billion tons by 2050 to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees
  • Most of the 35 largest meat and dairy companies do not disclose their emissions at all or do so incorrectly. Only a total of four companies provided complete emissions estimates

Tips for a climate-conscious diet

In order to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, we should significantly reduce the consumption of meat. Researchers at Lancaster University have shown that giving up meat can reduce emissions from food by up to 35%. In addition, more fruit and vegetables should be eaten and seasonal and organic products should be preferred. A recent study by Oxford University also illustrates the important role that avoiding animal-based foods plays in protecting the environment. Read more about these results here.