Tag Archives: poultry

Study finds most people would support a “meat tax”

Agriculture is a big driver of climate change, with the meat industry standing out among the rest as a source of CO2 emissions and environmental damage; lowering demand for meat or ensuring that farms have as little environmental impact is possible, but costly. Would you be willing to eat less, if it was for the good of the planet? Pay more for your meat? A new study suggests that the idea isn’t as controversial as you may believe on first glance.

Image via freestockphotos

Researchers from the UK policy institute Chatham House surveyed people from 12 countries and focus groups in Brazil, China, the UK, and the US, to get a feel for the public opinion on this issue. Their findings show growing public support for a “meat tax,” as well as other solutions such as more vegetarian options in school cafeterias or lowering subsidies given to livestock farmers.

On the whole, participants believed that the government should lead the effort to address unsustainable consumption of meat, but how feasible is that? Livestock farming is responsible for between 10 to 15 percent of the global emissions of greenhouse gases. Currently, an average person in industrialized countries consumes around twice as much meat as experts deem to be healthy, and the average American almost four times as much (250g per person per day), the study reports. But while consumption is plateaued in these areas, as population increases and more countries develop strong economies demand is only going to increase, making this industry an even bigger emitter — global meat consumption is estimated to increase by 75% by 2050.

Current levels of meat consumption.
Image via wikipedia

Governments understandably fear a backlash from voters over interference in such a personal choice as diet. As public awareness of the link between diet and climate change is so low, there is very little pressure on ruling bodies to do anything about it, so they don’t — only 21 of the 120 national plans submitted to the upcoming Paris climate conference include commitments to reduce emissions from the livestock industry.

This “cycle of inertia” means that dietary change continues to be a low policy priority despite its importance. The report however does advocate for governmental action in this issue, and while it does not put a hard figure on how much people would be willing to bear in extra taxes for their meat products, the authors do note that any “backlash to unpopular policies would likely be short-lived.”

By raising awareness of the negative impact of excess meat consumption on the planet — and our health — more people would be inclined for the government to act, researchers say.




US meat and poultry is widely contaminated with drug-resistant bacteria

Staphylococcus aureus is a nasty fellow; it can be responsible for a variety of diseases, and it’s pretty resistant to a variety of treatments. But sometimes, it can get an upgrade, and become way more resistant to drugs, which means the staph bacteria becomes much more dangerous and much less treatable.

So it’s definitely not good news that a study conducted by the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) concluded that drug-resistant strains of Staphylococcus aureus are present in meat and poultry sold at stores in incredible high rates. Half of the meat and poultry tested (47%) was infected with the staph, and half of that (52%) was infected with a strain that is resistant to at least three classes of antibiotics. Furthermore, DNA testing suggests that the animals themselves were the source of infection.

So basically, when you buy meat, flip a coin. If it’s tails, you get meat infected with staph virus. Then flip it again; if it’s tails again, the strain is also drug resistant. Not what you’d like to hear, right ?

“For the first time, we know how much of our meat and poultry is contaminated with antibiotic-resistant Staph, and it is substantial,” said Lance B. Price, Ph.D., senior author of the study and Director of TGen’s Center for Food Microbiology and Environmental Health.

The thing is, generally speaking, staph is killed with proper cooking, but that doesn’t mean it’s safe. It can lead to kitchen cross contamination, or if cooked improperly, the meat could be dangerous on its own.

“The fact that drug-resistant S. aureus was so prevalent, and likely came from the food animals themselves, is troubling, and demands attention to how antibiotics are used in food-animal production today,” Dr. Price said.

Densely stocked farm animals are the perfect breeding ground for drug resistant bacteria that can move from animals to humans; as the emergence of drug resistant strains grows, medics from all around the world are facing a new problem, and most of the time their options are limited.

“Antibiotics are the most important drugs that we have to treat Staph infections; but when Staph are resistant to three, four, five or even nine different antibiotics — like we saw in this study — that leaves physicians few options,” Dr. Price said.

S. aureus can cause different conditions, varying from minor infections or skin disease to life threatening conditions, such as pneumonia and sepsis, for example. The study clearly points out that a more careful approach to antibiotic use in animals is needed, and that people should take some precautions when buying meat, in terms of storage and cooking.