Ethan Brown, the founder and CEO of the world’s biggest plant-based meat company Beyond Meat, has suggested that a tax on meat would help tackle the problems associated with its growing consumption worldwide.
When asked if he favoured a tax on meat, he told the BBC, “The whole notion of a Pigouvian tax, which is to tax negative, you know, things that are high in externalities, I think is an interesting one. I’m not an economist, but overall and totally that type of thing does appeal to me.”
“I think taxing things we want more of such as income and not taxing things we want less of, I’ve always wondered about that. So in general, that type of taxation scheme is interesting to me. But I’ve got to leave it to others to work out the details,” he added.
However, critics have argued that such a move would raise the cost of living and account to unnecessary government interference.
Brown is of the view that even without imposing a tax, there has been a change in consumer perception and they are already eating less meat or quitting it altogether to enhance their quality of life.
“If you look at shopper data that we have, 93% of the people that are putting the Beyond burger in their cart are also putting animal protein in,” he said.
“That says we’re getting more and more penetration into the broadest swath of the market, which is people who are consuming animal protein, but again, are hearing this information about their health or maybe hearing about climate, or maybe uncomfortable with factory farming, they’re deciding to cut down on their consumption of animal-based products.”
According to Brown, his company focuses on getting the taste, texture and price of their products right so as to increase adoption, and hopes that the prices will go down in the future.
The livestock industry accounts for about 14.5% of global greenhouse gas emissions, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. Cutting this would help manage the climate crisis, and plant-based meat will play a significant role in this.
According to a study by the University of Michigan, Beyond Burger has been found to use 99% less water than its traditional counterpart and cuts off emissions by a whopping 90%, uses 93% less land and half the energy.
Brown said these environmental benefits are important “particularly for this younger generation, the ones that are flight shaming, and marching on climate, because they’re going to have to live in this environment”.