The campaign to expose the harmful, violent, and destructive reality of the animal agriculture industry.

Why Is Meat So Cheap?

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To realize meat alternatives' potential to reduce animal suffering, they'll need to become cheaper than chicken, eggs, and fish. Governments can help by REQUIRING animal farming to internalize their true costs.

OPEN PHILANTHROPY PROJECT: ‘Investment banks and consultancies are making bold predictions for meat alternatives’ success… Think tank RethinkX even predicts that, by 2030, meat alternatives’ success will have rendered the beef industry “all but bankrupt”… There is reason for optimism. The Beyond Burger is now sold in over 53,000 outlets, including a trial at 28 McDonald’s restaurants in Canada. The Impossible Burger just launched in retail, and outsold all ground beef in its first two weeks on the shelf… These new alternatives come closer than any before to mimicking meat’s taste and texture…

But they’re still not mimicking one key attribute of meat: its price (see chart below). That matters: the optimists’ predictions all assume that meat alternatives will soon be cheaper than meat. For instance, RethinkX assumes that meat alternatives “will be five times cheaper by 2030 and 10 times cheaper by 2035 than existing animal proteins.” Is that really feasible?…

The chief obstacle is not that meat alternatives are expensive; it’s that meat is absurdly cheap. Chicken sells for less than $2/lb, cheaper even than peanuts. Why? One common explanation blames government action: the factory farm lobby has secured huge handouts that artificially suppress meat prices. Proponents of this view cite not just direct farm subsidies, but also a host of indirect government supports, like “buybacks” of excess animal products, checkoff programs to promote meat, and subsidized loans for factory farms…

A more compelling explanation is that meat is cheap because it’s efficient to produce. This may sound laughable: activists have long decried the inefficiency of animal agriculture. And they’re partly right: beef cattle are inefficient… But the world’s 1.8B cattle account for just 2% of the globe’s vertebrate farmed animals. If meat alternatives are to help the other 98% (3.5B other mammals, 19B birds, and 57B farmed fish), they’ll need to be cheaper than factory farmed chicken, eggs, and fish. And those factory farms are awful, but efficient.

Take broiler chickens: genetics companies have bred them to grow so fast and frugally that they now need just 2.4lbs of feed to produce a pound of usable meat. (Though the feed is dry, while the meat is 66% water.) That feed is mainly corn and soy, which currently cost just 6 cents/lb and 14 cents/lb respectively. The only other major cost is labor and infrastructure, but factory farmers have gotten those costs down to just 10 cents/lb of bird weight…

So what should we do in a world where we’re competing with such a ruthlessly efficient industry?…To realize meat alternatives’ potential to reduce animal suffering, they’ll need to become cheaper than chicken, eggs, and fish. Governments and companies can help by requiring factory farms to internalize their true costs, while advancing research into cheaper plant proteins. We can help by keeping pressure on governments and companies to do so’. SOURCE…

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