Monday, July 15, 2024
HomeMoney MattersConsidering the True Cost of How Meat Is Raised

Considering the True Cost of How Meat Is Raised

When someone asks you, “Why does pasture finished meat cost so much more than what I’ve been buying all along in the grocery store?” do you have a good answer? Kendra Kimbirauskas, a food activist, legislative aide, and small diversified farmer has some answers that we thought would be helpful to you.

An example of hog barns and sewage lagoons.
An example of hog barns and sewage lagoons.

Kendra raises pastured hogs on her farm, so the differences in the cost of pork is what she focuses on in this video from Cooking Up a Story. But her answers could apply to beef and poultry as well. Concentrated animal feeding operations benefit from economies of scale. So it can be sold at a lower cost.  But as Kendra explains, “The costs aren’t gone. They just might not be what you’re paying out of your pocketbook.  There are going to be environmental costs associated with raising so many animals in such close confinement. There are going to be economic justice issues…There are potentially health costs…What happens when your antibiotics don’t work anymore because antibiotics have been overused in pork production?”

Kendra brings up these issues and more as examples of costs that we all bear because of the way we as a society raise our food.  We appreciate inexpensive food and most of us don’t know about or think about the other costs involved. But when we advocate change, it’s also important to consider the potential impact on a society that relies on low-cost food, and that sometimes, even as cheap as it is, there are segments of society that still can’t afford it.

It is a complex issue, but one that deserves some measured discussion. Meanwhile, for those interested in pasture finished products, they might appreciate knowing what the price includes.

Tablet readers, here’s your link.

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.


    • Hi Garry,

      Your point is well taken and I thought about it as I was getting this piece ready for publication. I don’t think that there’s a one size fits all answer, and there may be benefits from confinement, beyond the lower cost of food. In fact, some research suggests that when comparing greenhouse gas emissions, including those that come from crop production, some confinement operations may be better for the environment than pasture raised. It’s complicated, and when things are complicated it’s good to begin gathering lots of information and talk about what we as a society need and want. So this is just one aspect of that conversation that I hope we can continue to have.

  1. After the farm gate, processing costs are also subject to economies of scale. Utilizing the small local processor is horrendously expensive which is passed on to the consumer compared with a large meat processor.

  2. Large hog farms have no incentive to not capture the costs of handling the hogs, it reduces the amount of taxes they pay. And with antibiotics, they now rotate their drugs to minimize the problems you get with over use. I am not a pig farmer, I raise cattle, but I would think the period of time they keep the pigs before slaughter is short and if you have a good health program they should not need major drugs. Also, they now have better ways of getting rid of the manure so that it doesn’t end up in creeks and rivers.

    Pasture raised hogs can do major damage to pastures/fences, etc. when they escape and they will. Come to Texas and we can show you what the impact is. Regarding the quality of your product, I have no argument it has to be better and worth the extra cost!

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