A study carried out jointly at Bristol University and Rothamstead Research showed that a 'meat tax' would cost the UK £242 million - while savings resulting from reduced climate emissions were calculated in the region of only £100 million per annum – and concluded that such a move could do more harm than good.
Agricultural economist Dr Taro Takahashi admitted that solely from the climate change perspective a red meat tax could reduce GHG emissions, but added:
"But unfortunately, this is only half the story, because the same tax could also force grazing livestock farms out of the industry – even when grassland is actually the most sensible land use at that particular location," warned Takahashi.
"As well as impacting consumers and farmers, the knock-on effects will be felt right along supply chains as well as rural communities that support and are supported by farmers."
Dr Takahashi said that a better solution would be to look at which areas of the country were best kept as cattle and sheep farms, and which would be better turned to other uses such as cereal production, agroforestry and provision of ecosystem services.
But he said that more work was needed to identify which areas were best suited to grazing and which to growing arable crops to avoid further unintended consequences,