The Price of Cheap


I recently wrote about how good meat is more expensive. As I noted then, the price of the cheaper stuff–the factory-farmed meat–doesn’t account for the hidden costs.

Here are those costs.

Tax Dollar Costs

Our tax dollars provide significant government subsidies for agribusiness. Between 1995 and 2006, corn subsidies alone totaled $56 billion. These subsidies lower the cost of factory-farmed meat (corn subsidies exist in large part to reduce the cost of animal feed).

Health Costs

Of course, we also pay a price with our health. We ingest the antibiotics fed to industrial farm animals (antibiotics fight the disease caused by their living conditions), lowering our own resistance to bacteria (antibiotics no longer fight human disease as effectively). We ingest the hormones that farm animals are fed to make them grow faster, increasing our risk of prostate, breast, testicular, and colon cancer. Obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and high cholesterol are all related to overconsumption of meat (and we overconsume because it’s relatively cheap to do so). As Michael’s Uncle Al used to say, “If you have your health, you have your wealth.” In this respect, many of us are dirt poor.

Environmental Costs

We also pay the price with the health of our environment. Manure and urine runoff from factory farms pollutes air and poisons water supplies. A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all forms of transportation combined.

Karma Costs

Finally, we pay the price in bad karma. Factory farm operations exploit a low-paid, disempowered labor force. And I don’t need to describe again how factory farms treat animals.

We not only get what we pay for, we pay for what we get.

One thought on “The Price of Cheap

  1. Right on target, as always, Kam. People just don’t see the big picture when they scarf down a fast-food burger. It’s just too easy to pay the $3 or whatever and get a cheap meal than to think of the long-term ramifications of what they’re doing to themselves, the economy, and the enviornment.

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