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Meat giants under attack over risk of future pandemics

meat_industry_climate_changeMeat giants – including suppliers to household names such as McDonald's – have come under attack from investors for their inability to prevent future zoonotic pandemics.

Over 70% of animal agriculture firms are at high risk of fostering future diseases, according to research by investor coalition Farm Animal Risk and Return (Fairr) which warns of Covid-19’s lasting impact on the meat industry.

Companies were ranked from high to low risk across a set of seven criteria including worker safety, food safety, deforestation and biodiversity management, animal welfare and antibiotic stewardship. Not one firm fell under the “low risk” category.

Jeremy Coller, founder of Fairr, said: “Factory farming is both vulnerable to pandemics, and guilty of creating them. It’s a self-sabotaging cycle that destroys value and risks lives.”

“To avoid causing the next pandemic, the meat industry must tackle lax safety standards for food and workers alike, closely confined animals and overused antibiotics. This will disrupt a supply chain already cracking from fundamental land, water and emissions constraints.”

Notable names in the study include Brazil’s JBS and India’s Venky’s – both suppliers to the likes of McDonald's.

In the US, meat plant closures led to multinational corporation Tyson Foods warning that the “food chain is breaking” in an ad in the Washington Post, while livestock has been listed by Goldman Sachs alongside oil as one of the two most precarious commodities for investors next year.  

“The meat industry’s “food chain” was breaking long before it took an ad in the Washington Post about it. Covid is one of the straws that is breaking the meat industry’s back,” Coller added.

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