Members of the North American Meat Institute, which represents about 95 percent of the country’s meat producers, have committed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in line with international climate targets by 2030, the association announced on Tuesday.
To support its members in matching targets set in the 2015 Paris Agreement — in which countries agreed to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) — the Meat Institute said it will help companies establish individual emissions reduction goals. Those targets will be approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative, a partnership among the Carbon Disclosure Project, the United Nations Global Compact, the World Resources Institute and the World Wide Fund for Nature, which guides businesses in slashing emissions.
“Our comprehensive sustainability framework will drive momentum and generate technical support for meat packers and processors of all sizes to establish independently approved science-based targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions,” Meat Institute President and CEO Julie Anna Potts said in a statement.
The Meat Institute came under fire about a year ago, following a ProPublica investigation potentially linking email communications from the association to a controversial executive order issued by former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver dead at 77 Biden, Democrats losing ground with independent and suburban voters: poll Bipartisan Senate group discusses changes to election law MORE, who allowed meatpacking plants to remain open during the early stages of the pandemic.
At the time the executive order was issued in April 2020 the Meat Institute said that Trump’s decision would help “avert hardship” for producers and keep families fed, while prioritizing worker safety, The Hill reported.
Provisions to feed American families and protect meatpacking workers are both part of the Meat Institute’s new emissions reductions goals, launched alongside a broader sustainability framework that adheres to the Protein PACT for the People, Animals and Climate of Tomorrow. The Protein PACT is a partnership of 12 leading U.S. agricultural groups that have pledged to take measurable action on global development, a news release from the association said.
To ensure that 100 percent of Meat Institute members meet Paris Agreement targets, the association said it will begin collecting data to establish transparent baselines and verify progress companies make toward establishing goals for animal care, food safety labor, human rights, health and wellness.
In 2022, companies representing 90 percent of meat produced by Meat Institute members will report data in the association’s sustainability framework, with all members doing so by 2030, the news release said.
By 2025, all members that handle animals will need to pass third-party audits for animal care during transportation and handling, as well as require their suppliers to implement mandatory training, according to the association. The same year, the Meat Institute said it will begin working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Feeding America, to help fill the protein gap for families in need of high-quality protein.
Meat Institute members will also need to commit to reducing workplace injuries by 50 percent in comparison to a 2019 baseline, on top of an existing 75-percent reduction achieved from 1999-2019, the association said.
These actions, Potts said, will enable meat producers to provide “the leading source of safe, high-quality protein in Americans' diets, sustaining healthy animals and a thriving workforce along the way.”