Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

The Public Is Getting Totally Ripped Off on the Price of Meat, and Doesn’t Know It

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This is now less an issue for The Wife and me, since we’ve gradually dropped most meat from our menu, but still… This is an extract of a book from David Simon:

The following is an excerpt from Meatonomics: How the Rigged Economics of Meat and Dairy Make You Consume Too Much—and How to Eat Better, Live Longer, and Spend Smarter [2] by David Robinson Simon  (Conari Press [3], 2013): 

Imagine a bakery that sells every cake, pie, or loaf of bread for a dollar less than it costs to make. It’s a challenging business model, to say the least. But instead of going out of business, say the shop flourishes and expands, adding more ovens and increasing output for years. Impossible, right?

For a bakery, maybe. But not for America’s big producers of meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. The animal food industry actually uses this contrarian business model with surprising success. Take hog farmers, who routinely spend an average of eight dollars more rais­ing each pig than the animal yields when sold. The farmers, at least the big corporate operators, are in hog heaven. That’s because government subsidies actually make this business model profitable for those at the top. For the same reason, corporate beef producers routinely spend from $20 to $90 more than each animal’s value to raise cattle.

Each year, American taxpayers dish out $38 billion to subsidize meat, fish, eggs, and dairy. To put this corporate welfare package in perspective, it’s nearly half the total unemployment benefits paid by all fifty US states to unemployed workers in 2012. However, as we’ll see, unlike unemployment payments, subsidies don’t actually benefit many Americans—nor many farmers—and they are often disbursed in illogical and unfair ways. Consider this: media mogul Ted Turner and former NBA star Scottie Pippen were among the more than one thousand non-farming New York City residents to pick up farming checks from the federal government in 2007.

When it comes to the market for crops used as animal feed, which means the majority of crops grown in this country, Ameri­ca’s enormous farm subsidy program turns the system topsy-turvy. Bizarrely, government handouts encourage farmers to grow more of these crops even as prices decline. This is as backward as parents giving their kids extra money to make cold lemonade in the middle of winter. It just doesn’t make sense. Perhaps even worse than wast­ing the money, the consistent result of such a subsidy policy is to put small farmers out of business and damage rural communities here and abroad. But it doesn’t end there. Taxpayers also provide subsidies to encourage fishing even when it would otherwise be unprofitable. Yet with twice the number of fishing ships patrolling the seas than are necessary for the task, humans have already destroyed one-third of the ocean’s fisheries and, unless we cut back, are headed for complete destruction of all currently fished species within several decades.

Few Americans are aware of the realities of meatonomics—the economic system that supports our nation’s supply of animal foods— yet the peculiar economic forces powering our food system influence us in ways few imagine and nudge us to behave in ways we normally wouldn’t. Among its various effects, one of the most unsettling is that the system encourages us to eat much more meat and dairy than the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) advises.

According to conventional wisdom, factors like taste, dietary beliefs, and cultural traditions drive our decisions to buy animal foods. But the reality is that price plays a huge role in our eating choices as well. The alarming result of consumers watching our pocketbooks so carefully is that producers, who work hard to keep prices artificially low, are heavily responsible for driving demand. Doubling down on their strategy, producers also bombard shoppers with misleading mes­sages about the need to chow down on animal foods. Consequently, Americans have, to a great extent, become puppets of the animal food industry. We eat what and how much we’re told to, and we exercise little informed, independent judgment. You might think you know why you choose to eat certain foods, but as we’ll see, the real reasons are much more complicated.

[…]

The forces of meatonomics affect the well-being of the planet and its inhabitants, including tens of billions of animals used for food, and millions of small farmers here and abroad. Learning how these forces work can help you improve your personal life and the world in so many impor­tant ways, including saving money, losing weight, boosting your health, living longer, protecting animals and the planet from abuse, and preserving rural communities in the United States and elsewhere.

Meet the Owners

The Occupy Movement knows them as the One Percent. Comedian George Carlin called them the country’s Owners. They’re the rich power brokers behind the scenes, the business aristocrats who own almost everything in the United States and either influence or make almost all the important decisions in the country. In the meatonomic system, the Owners enjoy a base of economic and political power practically unequaled in any other industry.

The animal food sector wields its considerable economic clout to exert enormous influence over lawmaking at both the state and fed­eral levels. In the past several decades, animal food producers have convinced lawmakers to adopt a broad range of legislation—includ­ing some so over the top that it can only be called shocking—to pro­tect the industry and ensure its profitability. For example, it’s illegal to “defame” animal foods in thirteen states, and as Oprah Winfrey learned firsthand from a tangle with Texas beef producers, the indus­try does not hesitate to sue those who say unkind things about its products. Further, because undercover investigations at factory farms invariably yield graphic images of unsafe and inhumane conditions, the industry has sought—with surprising success in a number of states—to stop the flow of these shocking images by criminalizing the exposés.

Then there’s the federal food bureaucracy. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

3 September 2013 at 11:08 am

Posted in Business, Food, Government

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