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A tax on red meat? That won’t save the planet – or do much to improve our health

6 53 0
29.05.2019

The devil is a shape-shifter, not least when he takes the form of demonic foods. In response, the armies of the righteous have already waged war on sugar, and now red meat is in their sights. This time their cause seems doubly just. Red meat, we are told, is not only bad for our health, but the belching and farting ruminants that we farm are ruinous for the planet.

Emboldened by the apparent success of the sugary drinks tax, the weapon of choice to slay this monster is a similar levy on meat. Oxford University’s professor of population health, Mike Rayner, has even done the maths, and concludes that we need to tax red meat by 20% and processed meat by at least 100% to offset their costs to human health.

On the face of it, the meat tax looks like an appetising idea. But once you start putting some flesh on its bare bones it starts to look less savoury. I’ve become even more convinced about this after taking part as a juror in a Food Policy on Trial event hosted by the Food Ethics Council, of which I am a member. This intensive, exploratory half-day exercise heard from four experts, with questions from jurors and an audience made up mostly of food industry and policy experts.

It didn’t take too much digging to discover that both the health and environmental problems associated with red meat are far more complicated than the headlines lead us to believe.

Take health first. Earlier this year, both a major international study produced by the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health and another based on........

© The Guardian