Meat taxes global health. So why not tax meat? New research shows that a tax on red and processed meat—such as hot dogs, bacon, and deli meat—could save millions of lives and billions of dollars in health care costs.
Researchers from the University of Oxford estimate that in 2020 global meat consumption will result in $285 billion in health care costs and 2.4 million deaths from heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and colorectal cancer. But a global tax on meat could help prevent 220,000 deaths and decrease health care costs by $41 billion. It would also help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
“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 the health care systems and the economy,” says Dr. Marco Springmann, the lead author of the study.
A meat tax is certainly a step in the right direction. But eliminating processed meat from hospitals, schools, and other public institutions would save even more lives. Health care professionals and educators agree.
Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Cardiology recommend that hospitals remove processed meat from menus—and hospitals are beginning to listen. Earlier this year, Riley Hospital for Children in Indianapolis and Kentucky Children’s Hospital in Lexington both removed hot dogs from patient menus. Now, we’re working on getting hospitals in Washington, D.C., to remove all processed meat.
And at the beginning of this school year, Santa Barbara Unified School District in California became the first known school district in the United States to remove processed meat from lunch menus. Other districts may soon follow Santa Barbara’s lead. Earlier this year, members of the New York City Council introduced legislation that would remove processed meat from the city’s school lunches.