Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Hidden Costs

The single biggest hindrance to farm raised pastured meat (hogs, heifers, broilers primarily) is the cost.

At the farmer's market in Union Square the cheapest beef is $7.99/lb.  And that is for chop meat.

When I talk to friends and family they all say the same thing - "it's just too expensive".  And they are right.  I went out and bought a rib-eye steak from the local butcher about a month ago, it was $21.99/lb.  It tasted about twice as good, so I guess I got my money's worth.  
But it begs the question, "why is it so expensive?".  

But actually, the important question is this:  Why is the other stuff so cheap?  I looked at Food Emporium's online prices for their Union Square store and they had Chop Meat for $2.99/lb.

What about Chicken?  A pasture producer will generally be selling in the $3-4.50/lb range if she wants to remain viable.  How does this compete with food emporium's CAFO chickens? $2.29/lb at the Food Emporium. 

How can I tell my friends and family to eat better meat if they can reduce their costs by 66%, or about $5-7/week?  

The answer of course lies in the steaming pile of shit that is at the end of the money trail. 

Literally.  The Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations produce so much manure that the government has stepped in to clean up the mess.  And herein lies all the problems and hidden costs.  When the government steps in, you guessed it, the taxpayers are footing the bill.

What other costs do the CAFO's add to our tax burden?  Manure management amounts to a tax burden of over $5 billion.  Public Health costs can only be reliably estimated as between $1 and $3 billion, but are potentially much higher, considering the deterioration of the american diet, and the scourges held within, heart disease, cancer and diabetes (the 1st, 2nd, and 6th leading causes of death in the US as of 2004).
Additionally, CAFO's lower land value, by an estimated $26 billion, when dispersed over the 9,900 CAFO's in the country.  Not to mention grain costs.  Forget all my rambling, just look at this chart by the USCA:

If we add up all the hidden costs, then divide them evenly among the approximately 117 million taxpayers in the US, we come up with a hidden cost of about $343 per taxpayer per year.  Or about $6.50/week.  Roughly the same amount that can be "saved" by purchasing the CAFO meat.

What does all this mean?  Can you say corporate welfare?

Be well.

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