We have only 10 years to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals (UNSDG). In order to achieve these goals, government investments and expenditures must align with environmental, social and governance (ESG) principles.
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports that the food sector is responsible for 21-37% of anthropogenic greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Within this sector, industrial animal agriculture is a major source of GHG emissions. The top five major meat and dairy companies generate more GHG emissions than Exxon Mobile, Shell or BP. The consumption-based GHG inventory estimates that the food sector of cities like Berkeley generates nearly 7 metric tons of CO2E per household, which is higher than the GHG emissions from vehicle fossil fuel.
Figure 1: GHG emissions of major food categories
Industrial animal agriculture is also notorious for contaminating the air, soil, and water of surrounding communities. These farms are predominantly located in and disproportionately impact black and brown communities across the nation, further impacting their health, quality of life and opportunities to thrive. In the U.S., the meatpacking industry has the most dangerous occupations, averaging two amputations per week. These jobs physically and mentally burden slaughterhouse workers with kill quotas of hundreds of animals per hour, contributing to both human and non-human animal suffering. The fast-paced environment also increases animal cruelty and longtime meatpacking workers testify to slaughtering conscious animals, which over time can lead to high rates of PTSD among workers. The unhealthy conditions of these factory farms are also creating unhealthy foods. The stress and trauma endured by slaughterhouse workers creates a terrible environment for animal welfare. Several reports provide evidence of the extreme animal abuse in slaughterhouses. Moreover, the fast-paced work of killing hundreds of animals hourly further increases animal cruelty.
Multiple leading institutions have now shown that consuming red and processed meats is associated with increased risk of chronic illnesses like cancer, heart disease and type-2 diabetes. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified processed meat and red meat as carcinogenic and probably carcinogenic, respectively. Leading health organizations are now recommending limiting or eliminating red and processed meats from public institutions. As a result, the Council of the District of Columbia, and New York City both have taken progressive stances by limiting or eliminating red and processed meats from the city’s food procurement. These policies help to reduce the $3.8 trillion annual health care cost from chronic diseases and could save thousands of lives.
As a result, the cities should consider prohibiting red meat, processed meat and industrial agriculture derived animal products in their food procurement for the health of our communities, environment and animals. You may demand your City Council to adopt this change in your city’s food procurement by using this draft of Food Procurement Ordinance.