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

Our taxes subsidize the animal food industry.

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Thus, the last century has also seen a significant increase in ani­mal food consumption and its ugly cousin, obesity. Annual per-capita meat consumption has nearly doubled in the United States over the last century to its current level of 200 pounds per person. Our meat and egg consumption levels are well above USDA recommendations, and this is one reason we’re growing dangerously heavier. Two in three Americans are overweight and one in three is obese.

But it wasn’t always like this. Fifty years ago, only one in eight Americans was obese. The national obesity figure increased by an average of about one-half percentage point per year for the past five decades, moving almost in lockstep with the rise of factory farming and the decline of animal foods’ retail prices. Of course, higher con­sumption of meat and dairy is not the only reason for our nation’s health issues—we also eat more sugary and processed foods than we used to—but as we’ll see, volumes of research show that animal foods are a major contributing factor.

Finally, the steady rise of meatonomics has followed a disturbing, yet rampant political change: corporate influence over lawmaking has risen dramatically in the last half century. Driven largely by the expense of television advertising, the cost to get elected to US office has increased tenfold (in inflation-adjusted dollars) in the last fifty years. This skyrocketing price tag has in turn dramatically boosted the amounts spent to influence lawmakers and the number of lobby­ists peddling influence. (For a graphic example of how lobbying works at this level, check out the 2005 Golden Globe–nominated film Thank You for Smoking.) In the past three decades, as annual spending to influence Congress rose from $100 million to more than $3.5 billion (in inflation-adjusted dollars), lobbyists grew their ranks tenfold.

The animal food industry is just one of many special interests to capitalize on this massive change in spending and influence, but its efforts have been particularly successful. In the past few decades, the industry has convinced lawmakers to pass scores of state and federal laws that protect animal food production in a variety of ways. These include such disturbing examples as the emasculation of dozens of laws that once prohibited cruelty to farm animals and the passage of new prohibitions against food defamation, undercover investigations, food injury lawsuits, and phantom ecoterrorism.


Published with permission from Conari Press