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Climate Change and the Meat Industry


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Current meat industry practices have huge detrimental effects on the environment. For my project, I focused the sustainable development goals of responsible consumption and production and climate action.

I related this issue to my GOA, Game Theory, by modelling the issues of government regulations, appeasing the public, and industry limitations. The model shows the government and the meat industry as players of the “game,” with the goal of the government being to reduce the damage the meat industry has on the environment as well as appease the public. The goal of the meat industry is to maximize profits. The government can pick from three strategies, and the meat industry can pick from two. The numbers inside the chart represent the payoffs to the players, higher numbers being better payoffs. The first number represents the payoffs to the meat industry and the second number represents the payoffs to the government.

(payoffs to the meat industry, payoffs to the government)

I then found the Nash equilibrium of my game. A Nash equilibrium is an intersection of strategies where neither player can change strategies to gain an advantage over the other player. In my game, the Nash equilibrium was for the government to ban traditional meats and for the meat industry to invest in alternative meats. Alternative meats could be things such as plant-based meats or lab grown meats.

After that, I found the Pareto optimal solutions for my game. Pareto optimal solutions are solutions that are most beneficial to both players. To find these solutions, you plot all the payoffs as points, and the points on that form the line farthest to the top right are Pareto optimal.

In my game, the Pareto optimal solutions are for the government to do nothing and the meat industry to continue its practices, or the previously found Nash equilibrium solution. Since the solution where the government does nothing only really benefits the meat industry, I found the best possible solution to be for the government to ban traditional meats and for the meat industry to invest in alternatives.

In reality, a full ban may not currently be the best solution

Right now, alternatives to traditional meat aren’t quite on par with the real thing. Plant-based meat is similar, but not the same as traditional meat, and lab grown meat isn’t possible on a large scale yet. Hopefully in the future these alternatives will be able to replace the factory farming methods that are destroying the environment, but for now the best way to help is to be conscious about food choices.

Image result for burger king impossible burger
Burger King and other fast food chains are adding alternative meats to the menu

Even choices around types of meat can help. Different foods require different amounts of energy to produce.

Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Common Proteins and Vegetables

The replacement of traditional meats could come faster than you might imagine. In 2018, “the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration announced a joint agreement to oversee the production of cell-cultured meat.” (https://scienceline.org/2019/01/the-truth-about-lab-grown-meat/). Keep an eye out, because you might be able to make sustainable diet changes without having to sacrifice taste in the near future.

Please take a moment to fill out this poll

https://www.quiz-maker.com/poll2313449xFB0F4658-66

Sources used: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1MmjzQoNoQNz_hct07vFPRyAfqcXqdLU8YsMpTgbYumQ/edit?usp=sharing

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COMMENTS: 3
  1. April 26, 2019 by Kirsten.Mettler

    What you did here with game theory is very interesting. It is unfortunate that a lot of environmental issues get stuck in this same spot of the tragedy of the commons. I think you are right: the only real way to fix these problems are outside regulations. Even simple things like naming and shaming can make a big difference.

  2. April 26, 2019 by Ellen.Dickey

    This is a really awesome project! I loved all the graphs!

  3. May 02, 2019 by Ira.Kadet

    I like how you used game theory to determine the best solution to this issue. Even though I think a full ban on traditional meat is difficult, I do think that some government regulation is needed. Furthermore, raising awareness for this issue and having people choosing meat with less energy cost is also a good idea.

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