|Image by NDSU Ag Comm via Flickr|
It is impossible to calculate the extraordinary monetary costs when taking into account the huge environmental and medical impacts that are produced by the ever increasing demand for meat. What is the cost of a rain forest? What is the cost of a fatal heart attack? What is the cost of a polluted water supply? Obviously, these are things that cannot be measured to any degree of accuracy in monetary terms.
There are, however, costs to eating meat that can be calculated, and American taxpayers would be surprised and shocked to know that billions of their tax dollars are used to coddle and subsidize the industrial livestock corporations. The US subsidizes land use, water use, insurance, environmental clean-up and feed grain for the multi-billion dollar conglomerates that monopolize livestock operations today.
The US started subsidizing grain during the depression in order to help the farming community made up mostly of small family farms. However, in this day and age, the main beneficiaries of these subsidies are large agribusiness corporations who buy over half of subsidized feed grains. US subsidies significantly depress the price of agriculture commodities, which serves little benefit to the local farmers, but gives huge economic advantage to the transnational livestock industry. The price they pay for feed grain is below the farmer’s cost of production.
The US state and federal governments also subsidize the ridiculously high amount of water it takes to produce livestock. It is estimated that 2500 gallons of water are used to produce just one pound of beef, and yet livestock producers pay pennies on the dollar of what urban taxpayers pay for their tap water.
The US taxpayers also subsidize the livestock industry by charging them a token grazing fee of only $1.35 per month for one cow and her calf to graze on federal lands. Sadly, the Obama administration recently rejected a proposal to increase those fees, leaving the taxpayers to pay the costs of maintaining the land and mollifying the environmental impacts of compromised wildlife habitat, water quality, scenic views, and native vegetation.