Governments are attempting to deter some environmentally or nutritionally undesirable behaviors through taxation: soda taxes, cigarette taxes, plastic bag taxes, and perhaps next up—meat taxes.
The Guardian reports that an analysis issued by the investor network Farm Animal Investment Risk and Return (Fairr) Initiative finds that a tax on meat in Europe looks “inevitable” within the next decade. Citing livestock’s contributions to greenhouse gas emissions as well as water pollution, European governments may consider taxes on meat as they work to comply with Paris Climate Agreement standards. Germany, Sweden, and Denmark have already debated such measures. A tax on meat would also aim to reduce its consumption, which some governments say increase people’s weight and antibiotic resistance. Global meat consumption has risen 500 percent between 1992 and 2016, according to the Fairr report.
Could this tax ever happen here in the States? Unlikely, at least in the near future. European, especially Nordic, countries are more comfortable with taxes than Americans historically have been; European governments introduced carbon taxes, for example, as early as the 1990s. And American meat consumption isn’t just tax-free, it’s heavily subsidized. A 2016 study published in the American Medical Association’s JAMA Internal Medicine found that “current federal agricultural subsidies focus on financing the production of corn, soybeans, wheat, rice, sorghum, dairy, and livestock, the two latter of which are in part via subsidies on feed grains. From 1995 to 2010, approximately $170 billion was spent on these seven commodities and programs.”
Far from taxing meat, America’s agricultural subsidies encourage us to eat it more cheaply than we otherwise would. So rest easy, cheeseburger lovers of America, we likely won’t see a meat tax before Europe does. And especially not if we remain outside the Paris climate accord.