Each Time McDonald’s Sells a Big Mac, We’re Out $7

Posted: August 15, 2013 in Posts
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The average retail price of a Big Mac in the United States is $4.56, but that’s just a fraction of the actual cost. When we add in all the hidden, externalized expenses of meat production, the full burden on society is a hefty $12.00 per sandwich. The extra $7.44 above the retail price is borne by American taxpayers and consumers. In other words, rich or poor, omnivore or herbivore, you incur a share of the hidden costs of each and every Big Mac sold in this country.

Curious what you’re paying for? The externalized costs of each burger include:

  • $0.38 for cruelty.  A total of $20.7 billion in cruelty costs is imposed on Americans each year. (Extrapolated from a study in which auction participants bid to end cruel farming practices.)
  • $0.67 in environmental losses.  This is a small piece of the $37.2 billion in annual environmental costs related to U.S. animal food production each year. The figure includes the costs of soil erosion, climate change, damage from pesticides and fertilizers, devaluation of real property, and manure remediation.
  • $0.70 in subsidies.  Toss in a few coins from the $38.4 billion in government subsidies that American taxpayers pay to fund the meat and dairy industries each year.
  • $5.69 in health care costs. The biggest slice of the pie is a chunk of the $314 billion in health care costs incurred by Americans each year to treat those cases of cancer, diabetes heart disease, and food poisoning related to meat and dairy consumption.

With “billions and billions” sold, the social costs add up fast. The total externalized costs of U.S. meat and dairy production are over $414 billion each year. Under a financial burden of such staggering dimensions, the only ones “lovin’ it” are shareholders in the McDonald’s Corporation.

* * *

Source: David Robinson Simon, Meatonomics: How the Rigged Economics of Meat and Dairy Make You Consume Too Much—and How to Eat Better, Live Longer, and Spend Smarter (San Francisco: Conari Press, 2013) (costs of fish production excluded).

  1. John T. Maher says:

    A Big Mac Index parodying the Economist’s BMI which relates to relative purchasing power parity (PPP) across currencies. Great idea! And vastly more informative of the true involuntary cost of fast food to Americans whether they approve of raising and killing animals under brutal conditions eating meat or not which is a big theme of Meatopolis. I propose an end to Meatopolitics as usual and the public subsidies it demands in terms of grain subsidies, water subsidies, crazy exemptions bearing the environmental costs of pollution control and remediation, from checkoff marketing campaigns, government intervention such as with chicken carcass price supports. If capitalism is what this country wants then lets give them Adam Smith capitalism and let the true cost of production be the base of the market price with zero corporate welfare for meat producers. Hear that Steve King? I’m coming for you and your greedy public trough bottomfeeding ass: Iowa factory farmers will get nothing and you can take that to the cash register and ring up a loss on your way out of office. Same for Smithfield and your patsy representatives. After all it should be a free market undistorted by public subsidies and you would not disagree now, would you?.

  2. Todd Lohenry says:

    Reblogged this on A life of quality! and commented:
    Is it time to rethink food?

  3. Since my book came out 2 years ago, I’ve been talking about the $1000 hamburger if you dollar-cost-average the $100,000 by-pass surgery over the course of a lifetime. I also talk about the advertising dollars which really shows where are priorities are…all with meat/dairy and the poor watermelon bringing up the bottom of that list. It’s why we don’t see posters in school cafeterias that say “Watermelon, it’s what’s for dinner.” Or “Got Watermelon?” Glad you’re taking it on!

  4. wesly says:

    now i know what i eat. im doing this for a project so now i know

  5. David Simon says:

    Reblogged this on MEATONOMIC$ and commented:

    Reposting an early favorite. We get asked a lot about the hidden costs of a typical Big Mac, and this piece spells it out in detail.

  6. […] “But wait a minute”, I hear you saying, “what about that 99cent burger from the fast food joint?” If it’s cheap meat, like hot dogs, fast food, and the like, you’re likely looking at something that likely is full of artificial ingredients, not to mention the hormones, antibiotics, and other chemicals used in industrial animal agriculture. The cost to your health is not to be underestimated…an economic analysis puts the figure at more than double the cost you pay at retail. […]

  7. […] “But wait a minute”, I hear you saying, “what about that 99cent burger from the fast food joint?” If it’s low cost meat, like scorching dogs, quick meals, and the like, you’re probably taking a look at something that possible is filled with synthetic elements, to not point out the hormones, antibiotics, and other chemical compounds utilized in industrial animal agriculture. The value to your well being is to not be underestimated…an financial evaluation puts the determine at greater than double the fee you compensate at retail. […]

  8. […] Due to all these factors, it is clear that there are unseen costs that end up being paid by society, and not the producers. Public health risk due to overconsumption of meat, climate change, and land and  water scarcity are all very significant problems that go unaccounted for. It is estimated that if all these negative externalities were internalized, a Big Mac would cost $12, to be compared to the $5 price that consumers see (Meatonomics). […]

  9. […] the moment, you can buy a Big Mac in the US for $5.65. However, back in 2013, the true cost of a Big Mac was calculated at $12,00. The true cost? Yes, because there are other expenses that are not reflected in the […]

  10. […] the moment, you can buy a Big Mac in the US for $5.65. However, back in 2013, the true cost of a Big Mac was calculated at $12,00. The true cost? Yes, because there are other expenses that are not reflected in the […]

  11. […] Simon, David R. “Each Time McDonald’s Sells a Big Mac, We’re Out $7”. MEATONOMIC$, 15 Aug. 2013, https://meatonomics.com/2013/08/15/each-time-mcdonalds-sells-a-big-mac-were-out-7/. […]

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