Hiding in the shadows, the world’s largest animal protein producers continue to pollute without being cited for their impact on the environment, animal welfare, and human health impacts according to a new report from the Coller Fairr Protein Producer Index.

 To put that into perspective, the Animal Agriculture Industry is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than the entire fossil-fuelled transportation sector. Now in its second year, the Coller FAIRR Protein Producer Index analyses companies like Hormel and the Brazilian meat firm JBS, finding that many of the 60 largest in the sector aren’t taking the necessary steps to reduce their environmental impacts. Despite urgent warnings from environmental groups that food producers must do more, many of the largest animal protein companies are failing to take necessary action.

Many food companies say they’re working to reduce their environmental harms, but at least according to this report, the publicly available data suggests otherwise. This year, the FAIRR Index has analyzed the sustainability efforts of 60 of the largest animal protein companies across nine different categories, including greenhouse gas emissions, water pollution, food waste, conditions for workers, antibiotic use and animal welfare, and in many cases found company efforts lacking.

To make matters worse, the increasing impacts of climate change are putting additional pressures on food production. “What we’re seeing is that companies in the sector are contributing to many of the risks we discuss in the report, but they’re also deeply vulnerable…to the impacts of climate change,” says FAIRR’s Head of Research, Aarti Ramachandran.

While there’s plenty of talk from major players in the food industry about sustainability, the FAIRR report presents a very different picture, at least as far as many of the largest chicken, beef and pork producers are concerned.

Fifty of the meat and dairy companies whose soy or cattle supply chains rely at least in part on deforested land scored an average of only 8% on addressing deforestation risks. Worse, none of the fifty have made a public deforestation policy commitment for soy or cattle in all of the regions they source from.

Many Chinese companies are now importing more soy from Brazil thanks to the trade war with the U.S., but 88% of the Asian companies on the index, including eight pork producers, also offer no public discussion of deforestation risks.

Animal welfare also continues to be a problem. The report finds that “meat companies score an average of 22% on welfare commitments and even lower, 14%, on third-party auditing and assurance of welfare.” In addition, 83% of the companies surveyed have no “human rights due diligence processes to identify, prevent and remedy human rights abuses in business operations.”

Just under a quarter of the companies on the index have no public antibiotics policy, refusing to disclose either the quantities or types of antibiotics used on their farms. The fast-food companies McDonald’s and Yum! Brands have both committed to reducing antibiotic use in their foods, but the report notes that both of these companies continue to purchase from beef and chicken suppliers who make no such commitments.

Many of these companies are also failing to manage their water pollution, especially pollution stemming from a lack of manure management. 47 of the 60 companies offer only very little disclosure of their manure management policies, with six producers providing no disclosure at all.

The sector has a lack of a culture of disclosure,” says Ramachandran, but she hopes this report can begin to shift action in the right direction.

There has been a significant uptick in meat and dairy company investment in plant-based proteins in the past year, something the authors of the FAIRR index calculate as a positive step towards sustainability. Explains Ramachandran, “we think that, overall, there should be a rebalancing of protein so that animal protein consumption doesn’t continue to grow at the same trajectory, and so that there is a sustainable balance between plant-based and animal-based food.”

Original source: www.forbes.com