Meat industry body critical of meat tax

Muffin the collie- who was run over and killed when spooked by a firework thrown by local youths

Muffin the collie- who was run over and killed when spooked by a firework thrown by local youths

Meat tax rates high enough to be effective varied from country to country, but in the United Kingdom the "optimal" level would see the cost of red meat rise by 14 per cent and processed meat by 79 per cent, the research indicates.

The likely impact of a meat tax on death rates due to chronic disease was also estimated.

In 2015 the World Health Organization warned that processed meats, like bacon, sausages and ham, could cause cancer, while unprocessed red meat could also increase your risk.

The study suggested a tax of 20% on unprocessed red meat and 110% on processed products, with lower taxes in less wealthy nations, would cause fewer deaths and raise almost €150 billion, and save money for health services.

Our results suggest that if the health taxes were introduced, consumption of processed meat would decline by about two portions per week in high-income countries and by 16% globally.

Sausages, bacon and burgers could soon come with a luxury price tag, because scientists have recommended processed meat in the United Kingdom is taxed by 79%.

Last month climate minister Claire Perry told BBC News it was not the government's place to tell people they can't eat steak and chips, despite the environmental impact.

She added: "As few people in the United Kingdom are at this level of consumption, a general meat tax would be like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut".

Red meat consumption has also been associated with increased rates of coronary heart disease, stroke and Type 2 diabetes.

For our study, we used estimates of how red meat and processed meat affect the risks of chronic diseases, and how much it costs to treat those.

Consumption of red and processed meat was likely to cause 2.4 million deaths per year by 2020 and cost the global economy $285bn (£219bn), the study found.

Despite the huge impact on the price of burgers, sausages, mince and steak, the scientists behind the study called on all governments to consider imposing meat taxes.

"This is having significant impacts not only on personal health, but also on healthcare systems, which are taxpayer-funded in many countries, and on the economy, which is losing its labour force due to ill health and care for family members who fall ill".

So although consumers would still have the choice to eat red and processed meat, they would have to contribute to paying for treating the chronic diseases that its consumption is assumed to cause.

Our findings make it clear that the consumption of red and processed meat has a cost - not just to people's health and to the planet - but also to healthcare systems and the economy.

What is the difference between red meat and processed meat?

As a result, consumption of unprocessed meat was predicted to remain unchanged by 2020.

Tax revenues would amount to US$172 billion globally and cover 70% of the health costs that red and processed meat consumption puts on society. In October, scientists reported that huge reductions in meat eating are essential to avoid risky climate change, including a 90% drop in beef consumption in western nations.

"A tax on red meat would be a retrograde step, both for overall diet quality in women and girls and for health inequalities".

Louise Meincke, from the World Cancer Research Fund, said: "Governments need to implement more evidence-informed policies to help make our daily environments healthier so that it is easier for people to make these healthy choices".

"A meat tax need not be particularly controversial given the prevalence of alternatives to meat and their benefits".