An international expert panel says a red meat tax would help tackle global pandemics of obesity, under-nutrition and climate change.
First it was sugary drinks - now experts are calling for red meat to be taxed.

A report by The Lancet Commission on Obesity, released on Monday, said a tax on red meat was an example of the urgent action needed to address the greatest threats "to human and planetary health" - obesity, under-nutrition and climate change.

University of Auckland population health professor and commission co-chair professor Boyd Swinburn said national and international responses to all three problems had been "unacceptably slow".

Agriculture production accounted for about 50 per cent of all greenhouse gas emissions in New Zealand and foods high in saturated fats, sugar and salt, including red meat, were the biggest cause of ill health and premature death, he said.

Comment: The dogged adherence to the myth that meat, saturated fat and salt are unhealthy will be the death of us all. Excessive amounts of sugar and of carbohydrates, processed foods, trans fats and seed oils do more harm than meat ever could.

"We need to consider these together so we have food systems that continue to give us wealth, but don't promote ill health and death, and inequalities and drive up climate change."

A reduction of red meat consumption through taxes, redirected subsidies and labelling would improve diets and prevent obesity and cancer but also free up land for more sustainable crops, providing opportunities to reduce under-nutrition and greenhouse gas emissions, the report said.

Beef and Lamb New Zealand said the country did not have an issue with over-consumption of red meat and a tax would just drive "vulnerable groups" to even less healthy and sustainable foods.

"Eighty per cent of New Zealand's sheep and beef is produced on steep or rolling hill country, which is unsuitable for other types of agriculture, and our farmers are recognised as being some of the most sustainable in the world thanks to our grass-fed and free range systems," Beef and Lamb New Zealand chief insight officer Jeremy Baker said.

Comment: Soil-depleting mono-cropping is highly unsustainable. Animal husbandry is actually good for the planet.
Making the Case for Sustainable Meat

A report published in The Lancet earlier this month said a maximum of 14 grams of red meat a day, or about one hamburger patty a week, was best for health and the environment.

Ministry of Health guidelines recommend limiting red meat (beef and lamb) to less than 500g (cooked) a week, or 71g a day.

Comment: Enforced vegetarianism by authors who are clearly biased against meat. Agenda pushing: Majority of EAT-Lancet authors (over 80%) favored vegan/vegetarian diets

OECD data showed Kiwis have more than halved their consumption of red meat over the past 10 years, from 106g per day in 2007 to an average of 47.6g per day in 2017.

Associate Minister of Health Julie Anne Genter​ said the Government did not plan to tax red meat "at this stage", but an increase in awareness about climate change was affecting people's behaviour.

"Obesity and climate change are often framed as problems for individuals to change. This report shows it has been a failure of public policy and we need government action to protect our health and our climate."

The commission called for a global treaty, like those established for climate change and tobacco, to help governments restrict the influence of the food industry on policy and the establishment of a global philanthropic fund of US$1 billion (NZ$1.46b) "to support social movements demanding policy action".

Comment: Restricting the influence of the food industry? Well, that's rich considering some of the big names partnered with EAT-Lancet.
The EAT Foundation, which collaborated with The Lancet to produce this report, was founded by Norwegian billionaire and animal rights activist Gunhild Stordalen. EAT recently helped to launch "FReSH" (Food Reform for Sustainability and Health), a global partnership of about 40 corporations, including Barilla (pasta), Unilever (meat alternatives and vegetable oils), Kellogg's (cereals) and Pepsico (sugary beverages). Make of this what you will.

The Lancet editor-in-chief Dr Richard Horton said the business model of large international food and beverage companies led to over-consumption of junk food in both high-income countries and, increasingly, low and middle-income countries.

Genter said she was "interested to learn more about how a global treaty would work, as politicians need to play their part too".

Swinburn said the food industry should be excluded from the "policy-making table" as the profit motive would always win out over improving health and reducing climate change.

"Why have we not got a sugary drinks tax? Why don't we have regulations on marketing junk food to children? Why do we still allow industry to do that? Because successive governments are too frightened to tackle it, they don't want to burn their political capital."

A tax on red meat was not restricting choice but ensuring the price better reflected the true cost of production on the environment, Swinburn said.

"It's either the consumers or their grandkids who are going to pay - with a burnt-up world."