A price-cutting "meat tax" could prevent nearly 6,000 deaths a year in the UK and save the economy more than £ 700 million in avoided health care costs, the researchers said.
Worldwide, meat taxes could save an estimated 220,000 lives by 2020 and cut healthcare costs by £ 30.7 billion, a study found.
The research is based on evidence linking consumption of 'red' meat – such as beef, lamb and pork – to increased risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and cancer.
The scientists wanted to calculate the amount of health tax needed to cover the health costs associated with consuming meat in 149 regions of the world.
They also estimated the likely impact of a meat tax on mortality rates due to chronic diseases.
By 2020, consumption of red and processed meat is expected to cause 2.4 million deaths per year and cost the world economy $ 285 billion (£ 219 billion), the study said.
Meat tax levels that are high enough to be effective vary from country to country.
In the UK, "optimal" taxes increased the cost of red meat by 14% and processed meat by 79%.
Despite the huge impact on the price of burgers, charcuterie, minced meat and steak, the study's researchers called on governments to consider introducing meat taxes.
The lead researcher Marco Springmann of Oxford University's Nuffield Department of Population Health said, "Consumption of red and processed meat is above recommended levels in most high and middle income countries.
"This has significant implications not only for personal health, but also for health systems funded by taxpayers in many countries and for the economy losing its labor force due to sickness and care of sick family members.
"I hope governments will introduce a health tax on red and processed meat as part of a series of measures to help consumers make healthy and sustainable choices.
A health tax on red and processed meat would not restrict choice but would send a strong signal to consumers and relieve health systems
Dr. Marco Springmann, Oxford University
"A health tax on red and processed meat would not limit choices but send a strong signal to consumers and offload our health systems.
"Nobody wants governments to tell people what they can and can not eat.
"However, our findings make it clear that consuming red and processed meat costs not only human and planetary health, but also health systems and the economy."
The World Health Organization has classified processed beef, lamb and pork as carcinogenic and "probably" carcinogenic when consumed unprocessed.
The consumption of red meat has also been linked to increased rates of coronary heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
The study published in the journal Public Library of Science ONE showed that a health tax can reduce the consumption of processed meats such as bacon and sausage in high-income countries by about two servings per week.
It was also expected that higher taxes on processed meats would lead to consumers eating more unprocessed meat.
It was therefore assumed that the consumption of unprocessed meat will remain unchanged until 2020.
The worldwide benefits of cutting meat included a 16% reduction in the consumption of processed meat and the prevention of 222,000 deaths from cancer, heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes.
In addition, an estimated 3,800 deaths from obesity were prevented, the study said.
In the UK alone, an effective meat tax that compensates for health costs would prevent 5,920 deaths per year. This would lead to a 15.6% reduction in meat-eating deaths.
According to one study, "optimal" meat taxes were significantly higher in some other countries than in the UK.
In the US, the measure resulted in red meat costing 34% more and the processed meat price 163% higher.
An effective tax in Sweden increased the price of processed meat by a whopping 185% and the price of red meat by 27%.
The effective taxation of meat in Germany meant that red meat was 28% more expensive and the price of processed meat increased by 166%.
The same policy in Denmark resulted in a taxation of 29% for red meat and 119% for processed meat.
In China, however, tax rates were significantly lower – 7% for red meat and 43% for processed meat.
Louise Meincke of the World Cancer Research Fund said: "Governments need to introduce more evidence-based policies to make our daily lives healthier so that people can make those healthy choices more easily.
"This study shows the potential impact of a meat tax and shows that it can reduce meat consumption similar to a sugar-saturated beverage tax. It will also balance health system costs and improve environmental sustainability. "
Louise Davies, campaign director of the Vegan Society, said, "We need to consider the negative impacts of livestock on the environment, animals and human health. One way to reduce this impact would be a meat tax that we would welcome. Another possibility would be to take into account the subsidies currently granted for animal husbandry.
"A meat tax need not be particularly controversial given the spread of alternatives to meat and its benefits. Meat does not contain fiber, whereas beans, peas and lentils are high in fiber and can be one of the five a day. "