Posts Tagged ‘factory farming’

scale-croppedSeveral years ago, while his peers popped No-Doz and sported fake IDs, college sophomore Mark Devries had other plans. The 20-year-old Devries spent his time and money traveling the country to conduct video interviews of philosophers, activists, and factory farmers. His efforts would ultimately become “Speciesism: The Movie,” a groundbreaking, feature-length documentary about the nature of species-based prejudice. The film was released in 2013 to glowing reviews in Psychology Today, Scientific American, The Huffington Post, and many other media.

“Speciesism” refers to the categorical exclusion of nonhuman animals from the moral realm occupied by humans, and exclusion from the protections that realm offers. Through a number of eye-opening interviews, the film reveals that most humans hold speciesist views – and that these views typically lack a rational basis. We learn that because humans and nonhuman animals share many emotional and cognitive traits, the prejudice of speciesism is little different from racism, sexism, or other forms of discrimination among humans.

I recently caught up with Devries, now in his mid-twenties, to ask him about this remarkable movie and the inspiring story of its production. He delayed the start of law school for a year to work on the film, and while he did finally graduate, now he’s too busy traveling and screening the movie to focus on the bar exam like most law grads. Making movies instead of practicing law? It’s a brilliant, alternative legal career that many lawyers – including me – would view with admiration and envy.

Dave Simon: What led you, as a 20-year-old college student, to start making this film?

Mark Devries:  I came across some PETA demonstrations, and I became curious as to what motivated them. I started looking into it, and once I discovered factory farming, I was shocked to learn that for the most part, farms don’t really exist anymore. Instead we have these highly-controlled, sci-fi dystopias. I thought it seemed like something that should be made into a documentary.  It was only once I started filming that I came upon the much larger and deeper issue of speciesism itself.

800px-Peta_Armani_Fur_is_Dead_(7984596565) cropped

DS:  You mention in the film that you didn’t know anything about movie-making when you started. How did you do it?

MD:  I bought a camera, and I taught myself how to use that and the recording equipment. Then I taught some college friends how to use the equipment.

DS: Amazing. So you had a crew of friends. What was the film-making process like?

MD: I had to film sporadically while in college at the beginning, using money I earned from part-time jobs. I did a lot of filming, trying to find things out, and I made many attempts to get things on film – sometimes succeeding and sometimes not. Often we just walked up to animal facilities and tried to get into discussions with the owners, and to get them to talk about what goes on inside. Some of things they told us were quite shocking, as seen in the film. Then, perhaps a year into filming, I learned about speciesism – and that quickly became the film’s new direction.


DS: It must have been incredibly challenging to do all this while in college. Did you ever consider dropping the project?

MD: I almost gave up many times.  As a college student, I didn’t have much money, and I was spending everything I had to take these regular excursions to investigate factory farms and conduct interviews.  I also used practically all of my free time on this, so it was exhausting.

DS: There’s an intense scene in the film in which your father describes living with chronic pain. You mention it was the first time he ever discussed his pain with you. What was it like for you to film this scene?

MD: I was honored that my father was willing to discuss it. While shooting the scene, I was thinking that his experience would make a real difference in opening peoples’ minds and hearts to what nonhuman animals experience. Audience members tell me that until watching this scene, they had never thought of nonhuman animals experiencing pain in the same ways humans do, so it have been a very effective part of the film.

hens cropped

DS: You interview, or try to interview, a number of factory farmers in the movie. Did you learn anything important from these interviews (or attempted interviews)?

MD: More than anything else, I was floored by the cavalier attitude of the farmers who finally let us onto their property.  That seemed to perfectly illustrate the level of desensitization to suffering that exists in today’s meat industry.

DS: What effect do you think the movie has had so far in raising awareness of speciesism and its consequences?

MD: I am thrilled to say that it has completely exceeded my expectations.  I hear all the time from people who say that the film dramatically affected them, and I hear even more often from animal advocates who gave or showed the film to friends or colleagues and it persuaded them to go vegan when nothing else worked for years. One of the best uses of the film is for animal advocates to show it to others, host a screening of it, or post a link to it on their website. With so many people showing it at home or school, and giving DVDs to others, we’ve reached thousands upon thousands of viewers. For those who want to hand it out, we provide packs of multiple DVDs at reduced prices – we charge the lowest we can afford and still meet our operating expenses. [Note: see below for info on buying DVDs at a 50% discount.]

DS: How did making this movie change you?

MD: I wasn’t vegan when I started the movie. I became vegan about halfway through, after I had spent time talking with philosophers like Peter Singer and Tom Regan. They argue for fundamental changes in our view of nonhuman animals, on the grounds that not taking nonhuman animals seriously is a form of prejudice similar to racism and sexism. This moved me from thinking of the topic as an issue of sentiment – whether or not we have kind feelings towards other animals – to seeing it as a serious ethical issue on par with the other major ethical and political issues of our time.

Tagline Post THREESpeciesism: The Movie” is now showing in screenings around the country. To find or arrange a screening near you, buy DVDs for yourself or others, or learn more about the movie and the issues it covers, visit SpeciesismTheMovie.comSpecial bonus: use coupon code meatonomics for a 50% discount on any purchase.

Curious about the bizarre economic forces in the meat and dairy industries? Check out Meatonomics: How the Rigged Economics of Meat and Dairy Make You Consume Too Much, and How to Eat Better, Live Longer, and Spend Smarter.


By Robert Goodland[1]

Climatic change is fearsome.  The National Academy of Sciences published a study in 2013 explaining how 1,700 American cities – including New York, Boston, and Miami – will become locked into some amount of submersion from rising sea levels unless expensive new dykes and levees can hold back the rising waters.  In fact, the International Energy Agency has warned that major action by 2017 may be the last real chance to reverse climate change before it’s too late.

Rising sea levels

Elsewhere, the last chance for major action is said to be 2020.  Even with that more generous timeframe, it’s too late to reverse climate change by replacing fossil fuel infrastructure with renewable energy infrastructure.  That’s because doing so is estimated to require at least 20 years to implement at the necessary scale.  Indeed, large-scale implementation of renewable energy infrastructure was the general basis for the Kyoto Protocol when it was drafted in 1990.  But the Kyoto Protocol did not yield a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions as intended; to the contrary, global greenhouse gas emissions have risen shockingly by 61% from 1990 to 2013.

Gestation_crates_5Now, there seems to be only one remaining pragmatic way to reverse climate change before it’s too late – and that’s by taking quick and large-scale actions in food, agriculture, and forestry.  When Jeff Anhang and I estimated in 2009 that at least 51% of human-induced greenhouse gas is attributable to livestock, we calculated that replacing 25% of today’s livestock products with better alternatives could almost fully achieve the objective of the Kyoto Protocol.

However, as greenhouse gas emissions and atmospheric carbon have continued to rise, now almost 50% of today’s livestock products must be replaced with better alternatives by 2017 – or by 2020 at the latest – in order to achieve the objective of the Kyoto Protocol and avert catastrophic climate change.  No other pragmatic worldwide action to reverse climate change has been proposed by anyone.

One reason why worldwide action is needed is that climate change is one of a relatively small number of environmental issues that are transboundary.  This means that greenhouse emissions and atmospheric carbon don’t respect borders – so a molecule of carbon dioxide emitted in China can affect someone anywhere in the United States just as much as it will affect someone in Beijing.

CO2 Emissions By Country in Metric Tons as of 2010 (Source: US Dept of Energy)

The transboundary nature of climate change means that everyone in the United States could go vegan with virtually no climatic benefit if the consumption of livestock products continues to increase in China and elsewhere.  In other words, it’s as important to be concerned about what happens with food and climate change elsewhere as it is to be concerned about what happens with food and climate change in the United States.

In fact, the average global concentration of atmospheric carbon continues to increase after it recently rose above 400 parts per million, far above the safe level of 350 parts per million.  The only known way to draw down atmospheric carbon on a large scale in a relatively short timeframe is by growing more trees, which is uniquely possible through our recommendations.  That’s because replacing a substantial amount of today’s livestock products with better alternatives will free up a vast amount of land to permit large-scale reforestation and greenhouse gas sequestration – at the same time as it will massively reduce greenhouse gas emissions attributable to livestock production.

The dual benefits of reducing emissions and absorbing atmospheric carbon on a large scale at the same time are the key aspect of what makes our recommendations the only pragmatic way to reverse climate change before it’s too late.

0611_soy_foodsTo be clear about what we mean by “better alternatives” to livestock products:  We mean everything from grain-based meats to soy milk, nut butters, as well as whole grains and legumes.  This is because any food that comes directly from a plant rather than from livestock will generally be responsible for a much lower level of greenhouse gas emissions than are livestock products.

We recommend against framing what’s needed as less “meat” and less “milk,” in part because producers of vegan foods often use terms such as “grain-based meat” and “hemp milk.” Moreover, dictionaries define “meat” and “milk” as essential food products that include vegan versions.  So we suggest that it is not the soundest of strategies to cede the terms “milk” and “meat” to livestock producers, and to press people to sacrifice those items.  Indeed, the livestock industry perceives that consumers see milk as such an essential beverage that some livestock producers have filed lawsuits to prevent vegan food producers from using the term “milk.”

One of the reasons to focus attention on livestock and feed production is that such production is estimated to occupy 45% percent of all land on earth – that’s all land, both arable and non-arable, including ice caps and mountaintops.  Most of the land used for livestock and feed production was once forested, and can be forested again.  In fact, there is documented potential for agricultural change to bring atmospheric carbon to pre-industrial revolution levels within five years.


To provide as much scientific information on this as possible, we’ve developed a website where we’ve posted updated versions of our assessment and links to many prominent citations of our work (and our site has attracted a lot of attention since its high-profile launch, which was reported on by Paul McCartney’s Meat Free Monday campaign).

533px-Sheep,_Stodmarsh_6For decades, activists have urged that people reduce their consumption of livestock products in order to reduce environmental impacts in general, to be more compassionate to animals, and to improve human health – yet global consumption of animal-based foods has risen dramatically, instead of falling.

In contrast, emergencies normally motivate major action – and since major action to reverse climate change is said to be needed by 2017 or no later than 2020, activists may find it most compelling and effective to cite reversing climate change as the key goal for people to act upon.  Indeed, there is surely no more compelling motivation to act than the knowledge that replacing livestock products with better alternatives may be the only pragmatic way to stop catastrophic climate change from imperiling much of life on earth.

[1] The late, renowned ecologist Robert Goodland served as Lead Environmental Adviser at the World Bank Group, after being hired as its first full-time professional ecologist. Among his many accomplishments, Dr. Goodland co-authored (with Jeff Anhang) the ground-breaking study finding that livestock is responsible for at least 51% of human-induced greenhouse gases. This article is excerpted and edited from the last public presentation made by Dr. Goodland (in September 2013).


bee in the sand

There’s a beautiful beach called “Crystal Cove” near my home, so close that my partner Tania and I, who consider it our personal sanctuary, walk on the shore several times a week.  (This stretch of coastline is one of the best things about Orange County, California, a place so conservative and corporate-friendly that voters here rejected a GMO labeling initiative by a two-to-one margin.)  In the past year, however, we’ve seen something strange on the beach along with the starfish, anemones and shorebirds: dying bees.  Sometimes there are none.  Other times they’re present by the dozens, wriggling in circles in the wet sand at the water’s edge like drunken, disoriented little aviators.  Eventually, they get tired and simply expire.  You can pick them up, barely alive, and move them inland to a safe place, but it makes no difference.  They’re fatally lost, they can’t find their hive, and they’ll be dead in a few hours.

749px-Anthidium_February_2008-1“Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD) refers to the mysterious disappearance of millions of US honeybees over the past half-century – and at an alarmingly accelerated rate since 2006.  I don’t know for certain whether dying bees at the shore are casualties of CCD, and the academics I asked didn’t know either.  But it sure seems likely, especially since CCD is such a generalized concept that almost anything might fit the category.  Which brings me to the main point of this post: the evidence shows that CCD is yet another unfortunate, costly result of Americans’ extraordinarily high consumption of meat and dairy.

mcdonalds-Big-MacIn my book MeatonomicsI show that our nation’s obsession with animal foods – leading us to consume more meat per capita than any other country on the planet – costs us more than $400 billion yearly in hidden, or externalized, costs.  The expenses related to these bee die-offs are also significant, which is why the agriculture industry and the US Department of Agriculture take CCD seriously and are devoting resources to addressing it.  One-third of the food we eat depends on honeybee pollination – giving those pollination services an estimated value of $215 billion worldwide.[1]  In 2008, there were just 2.4 million honeybee colonies in the United States, down from 5.9 million in 1945.[2]  These massive colony losses have already raised honey costs and beehive rental costs, hurt some beekeepers’ incomes, put others out of business, and threatened to disrupt the production of crops worth $15 billion.[3]

Let’s consider how bees are dying, then look at why meat and dairy are to blame.  One leading explanation for CCD is that the prevalent use of pesticides on crops is killing the little pollinators.[4]  When exposed to toxins, bees become disoriented and die within twenty-four hours.  The bee deaths at the beach, of course, fit this pattern like a honeycomb fits a hive.

800px-Corn_field_ohioAnother theory for the bees’ disappearance is that with vast amounts of US cropland now dedicated to monocrops like corn and soybeans, foraging bees cannot find sufficient nutritional or seasonal variety to meet their needs.[5]  Moreover, bees get important immune-boosting benefits from consuming a variety of pollen types, and when they consume only one type, these benefits are diminished.[6]

A final hypothesis says that bees are dying because the pollen of GMO plants is altering the DNA of bees or of bacteria that live in bees’ guts.  One researcher who studied this phenomenon found that genetic material transferred to bees from GMO corn may have “altered the surface of the bee’s intestines, sufficiently weakening the bees to allow parasites to gain entry.”[7]

764px-Honey_bee_on_a_dandelion,_Sandy,_Bedfordshire_(7002893894)Of course, it could even be a combination of all three of these factors.  After all, bees evolved to consume healthy pollen from a variety of natural plants, not toxic pollen from pesticide-soaked, genetically modified, monocrops.  So the triple-whammy theory makes sense too.

It seems indisputable that CCD is a consequence of industrial agriculture, but what does this have to do with meat and dairy?  That’s easy: most of the crops we grow in this country are fed to livestock.[8]  Thus, the top three US crops are corn, soybeans, and hay. Farm animals eat 70 percent of the soybeans, 80 percent of the corn, and virtually all of the hay.[9]  Moreover, 94% of US soy is GMO, as is 88% of US corn.[10]

Thus, the picture that emerges is this: most US cropland is dedicated to GMO monocrops being raised to feed livestock.  And the research shows that it is precisely these crops that are killing bees.  So it is fair to conclude that animal agriculture is largely responsible for the massive bee declines associated with CCD.

800px-Fresh_cut_fruits_and_vegetablesWhat can we do about it?  For starters, we can consume less meat and dairy and eat more organic fruits and vegetables.  This switch alone would go a long way toward helping restore the natural and variegated sources of healthy pollen that bees need.  I propose some other solutions to this and other problems of animal agriculture in my book – so for more details, check out Meatonomics.


[1] Dennis vanEngelsdorp et al., “A Survey of Honey Bee Colony Losses in the U.S., Fall 2007 to Spring 2008,” PLoS ONE 3, no. 12 (2008).

[2] Ibid.

[3] George Raine, “Many Causes Blamed for Honeybee Die-off: Colony Collapse Disorder Could Cost $15 Billion,” San Francisco Chronicle (June 1, 2007).

[4] Pettis J, vanEngelsdorp D, Johnson J, Dively G. Pesticide exposure in honey bees results in increased levels of the gut pathogen Nosema. Naturwissenschaften. 2012;99:153–158.

[5] M. Spivak, E. Mader, M. Vaughan, N. H. Euliss Jr., 2011.- The plight of the bees.- Environmental Science and Technology, 45: 34-38.

[6] Alaux C; Ducloz F; Crauser D; Le Conte Y. 2010. Diet effects on honeybee immunocompetence. Biology Letters.

[7] Gunther Latsch, “Collapsing Colonies: Are GM Crops Killing Bees?,” Spiegel Online (March 22, 2007).

[8] Edgar G. Hertwich et al., “Assessing the Environmental Impacts of Consumption and Production: Priority Products and Materials” (report, Working Group on the Environmental Impacts of Products and Materials to the International Panel for Sustainable Resource Management, United Nations Environment Program, 2010), 80.

[9] US Environmental Protection Agency, “Major Crops Grown in the United States”; Lester Brown, “Soybeans Threaten Amazon Rainforest,” Grist (2010).

[10] Ryan Beville, “How Pervasive are GMOs in Animal Feed?,” GMO Inside Blog (July 16, 2013).

With a nod to the Harper’s Index, here’s the Meatonomics version of 40 numbers that tell a story. Sources for all figures are cited below. To view or download as a pdf, click here.

Average market value of a cow in the North Central United States : $245

Average cost to raise a cow in that region : $498

Amount US taxpayers spend yearly to subsidize meat and dairy : $38 billion

To subsidize fruits and vegetables : $17 million

US retail price of a pound of chicken in 1935 (adjusted for inflation) : $5.07

In 2011 : $1.34

Pounds of chicken eaten annually per American in 1935 : 9

In 2011 : 56

Factor by which US per-capita consumption of chicken and other meat exceeds world average : 3

By which US incidence of cancer exceeds world average : 3

Portion of US cancer, diabetes and heart disease cases related to meat and dairy consumption : 1/3

Annual cost to treat US cases of these diseases related to meat and dairy consumption : $314 billion

Portion of annual Medicare spending this represents : 3/5

Dietary cholesterol needed by humans, per National Academies’ Institute of Medicine : 0

Daily maximum recommended dietary cholesterol, per USDA (in milligrams) : 300

Milligrams of cholesterol per gram of ground beef : 0.9

Per gram of salmon : 0.9

Revenue collected by US fishing industry per pound of fish caught : $0.59

Portion of this figure funded by taxpayers as subsidies : $0.28

Pounds of dead fish and other animals discarded daily as unintended “bycatch” : 200 million

Portion of the worldwide targeted catch this represents : 2/5

Portion of Earth’s wild fisheries that have collapsed and ceased producing : 1/3

Pounds of wild fish needed to raise one pound of farmed salmon or tuna : 5

Portion of US seafood that comes from fish farms : 1/2

Number of foot-long, farmed trout typically raised in a space the size of a bathtub : 27

Number of pain receptors on the face and head of a trout : 18

Average amount Americans would pay to end inhumane hyper-confinement of pigs : $345

Number of states whose animal cruelty laws do not protect farmed animals : 37

Number of federal anti-cruelty laws that protect farmed animals during their lifetimes : 0

Annual government-managed “checkoff” spending to promote meat and dairy : $557 million

To promote fruits and vegetables : $51 million

Grams of protein in three ounces of canned ham : 18

In three ounces of roasted pumpkin seeds : 27

Average percentage by which a vegan’s blood cholesterol level is lower than an omnivore’s : 25

By which her weight is lower : 18

By which her life expectancy is longer : 13

Human lives that a 50% excise tax on meat and dairy would save yearly : 172,000

Animal lives it would save : 26 billion

Pounds this tax would cut yearly from US carbon-equivalent emissions : 3.4 trillion

Pounds of carbon equivalents emitted yearly from all US motor vehicles and vessels : 3.3 trillion


Note:  The sources below provide raw data.  For full explanations and detailed calculations, see 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).

Value and cost of a cow:  Sara D. Short, “Characteristics and Production Costs of US Cow-Calf Operations,” USDA Statistical Bulletin 17, no. No. 947-3 (2001) (data for “North Central” region).

Subsidies to meat and dairy: Grey, Clark, Shih and Associates, Limited, “Farming the Mailbox: US Federal and State Subsidies to Agriculture – Study Prepared for Dairy Farmers of Canada” (2010); U. Rashid Sumaila et al., “A Bottom-Up Re-Estimation of Global Fisheries Subsidies,” Journal of Bioeconomics 12 (2010): 201–225; Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), “Agriculture and Health Policies in Conflict” (2011).

Subsidies to fruits and vegetables: Iowa Public Interest Research Group, “Junk Food Trumps Fruits and Vegetables in Federal Subsidies,” EcoWatch.

Chicken prices and consumption: US Census Bureau, Statistical Abtracts (1940); US Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Average Prices (2011)”; USDA Economic Research Service, “Red Meat and Poultry – Per Capita Availability.”

Per capita meat consumption and cancer incidence by country: ChartsBin,; World Cancer Research Fund International, “Data Comparing More and Less Developed Countries”; American Cancer Society, “Cancer Facts and Figures 2011”; National Cancer Institute, “Surveillance Epidemiology and End Results.”

Disease cases related to meat and dairy consumption: Romaina Iqbal, Sonia Anand, and Stephanie Ounpuu, “Dietary Patterns and the Risk of Acute Myocardial Infarction in 52 Countries: Results of the INTERHEART Study,” Circulation 118, no. (19) (2008): 1929–-37; A. R. P. Walker, “Diet in the Prevention of Cancer: What Are the Chances of Avoidance?” The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health 116, no. 6 (1996): 360–66; Dariush Mozaffarian et al., “Lifestyle Risk Factors and New-Onset Diabetes Mellitus in Older Adults,” Archives of Internal Medicine 169, no. 8 (2009): 798–807.

Costs to treat diseases related to meat and dairy consumption: Paul A. Heidenreich et al., “Forecasting the Future of Cardiovascular Disease in the United States: A Policy Statement from the American Heart Association,” Circulation 123 (2011) 933–-944; American Cancer Society, “Cancer Facts & Figures 2012”; American Diabetes Association, “Economic Costs of Diabetes in the US in 2007,” Diabetes Care 31, no. 3 (2008); US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “Diabetes – Success and Opportunities for Population-Based Prevention and Control: At a Glance 2010.”

Medicare spending: US Department of Health and Human Services, “2014 Budget.”

Cholesterol needed and recommended: National Academy of Sciences, Dietary Reference Intakes for Energy, Carbohydrate, Fiber, Fat, Fatty Acids, Cholesterol, Protein, and Amino Acids (Washington, DC: The National Academies Press, 2005); USDA, “Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010.”

Cholesterol in ground beef and salmon: USDA, “Cholesterol (mg) Content of Selected Foods per Common Measure, Sorted by Nutrient Content,” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 21 (2008).

Fishing revenue and subsidies: U. Rashid Sumaila et al., “A Bottom-Up Re-Estimation of Global Fisheries Subsidies,” Journal of Bioeconomics 12 (2010): 201–225; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “US Domestic Seafood Landings and Values Increase in 2010” (2011).

Bycatch: R. W. D. Davies et al., “Defining and Estimating Global Marine Fisheries Bycatch,” Marine Policy 33, no. 4 (2009): 661–72; Michael Parfit, “Diminishing Returns,” National Geographic (November 1995).

Collapse of fisheries: Boris Worm, et al., “Impacts of Biodiversity Loss on Ocean Ecosystem Services,” Science 314, no.: 5800 (2006): 787–-90.

Wild fish fed to farmed fish: Rosamond L. Naylor et al., “Effect of Aquaculture on World Fish Supplies,” Nature 405 (2000): 1017–24.

Farmed fish consumption: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), “Fishwatch: US Seafood Facts.”

Trout stocking density and pain receptors: Matthias Halwart, Doris Soto, and J. Richard Arthur, eds., Cage Aquaculture: Regional Reviews and Global Overview (technical paper no. 498, UN FAO Fisheries, Rome, 2007); Lynne U. Sneddon, Victoria A. Braithwaite, and Michael J. Gentle, “Do Fishes Have Nociceptors? Evidence for the Evolution of a Vertebrate Sensory System,” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 270, no. 1520 (2003): 1115–21.

Willingness to pay to end animal cruelty: F. Bailey Norwood and Jayson L. Lusk, Compassion by the Pound: The Economics of Farm Animal Welfare (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011), 344–45.

Anti-cruelty laws: Cody Carlson, “How State Ag-gag Laws Could Stop Animal-Cruelty Whistleblowers,” The Atlantic (March 25, 2013).

Checkoff spending: Geoffrey S. Becker, “Federal Farm Promotion (‘Check-Off’) Programs,” Congressional Research Service Report for Congress (2008) (figure for fruits and vegetables excludes soybeans and sorghum, most of which are fed to farmed animals).

Protein in ham and pumpkin seeds: USDA, “Content of Selected Protein (g) Foods per Common Measure, Sorted Alphabetically,” National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, Release 24.

Cholesterol, weight and longevity advantages of vegans: Jack Norris and Ginny Messina, “Disease Markers of Vegetarians” (2009), accessed August 19, 2012, (referenced data are from table 1, “Cholesterol in USA Vegans”); S. Tonstad et al., “Type of Vegetarian Diet, Body Weight, and Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes,” Diabetes Care 32, no. 5 (2009): 791–96; Gary E. Fraser and David J. Shavlik, “Ten Years of Life – Is It a Matter of Choice?,” Archives of Internal Medicine 161 (2001); US Census Bureau, “Expectation of Life at Birth, and Projections” (2012).

Lives saved by meat tax: humans – “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2009,” US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention National Vital Statistics Reports 59, no. 4 (2011) (assumes 44.1% reduction in consumption and corresponding reduction in deaths related to meat and dairy consumption; for details see Simon, Meatonomics); animals – Free from Harm, “59 Billion Land and Sea Animals Killed for Food in the US in 2009” (2011), accessed August 18, 2012, (assumes 44.1% reduction in consumption).

Carbon equivalent emissions saved by meat tax: According to the US EPA, total US carbon dioxide (CO2) equivalent emissions were 6,821.8 million metric tons (MMT) in 2010. (US EPA, “US Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report,” Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990–2010 (2012). Researchers estimate that 51% of emissions of CO2 equivalents is attributable to animal agriculture, which represents 3,479.1 MMT of the US total. (Robert Goodland and Jeff Anhang, “Livestock and Climate Change: What if the Key Actors in Climate Change Are . . . Cows, Pigs and Chickens?” World Watch (November/December 2009.) The 44.1% of this figure that the tax proposal would eliminate is 1,534 MMT, or 3.4 trillion pounds of CO2 equivalents. That is more than the 1,497 MMT that the US EPA estimates was emitted in 2010 by all US motor vehicles and vessels. (US EPA, “Inventory of US Greenhouse Gas Emissions,” 14, table 3.12; note that MMT and teragrams are equivalent units of measure.)

factory-farmingFor almost as long as they’ve been in use, factory farms have been synonymous with three kinds of problems: environmental, nutritional, and ethical.  But today, new data compels us to consider an overlooked fourth category: economic. Scheduled for release in September 2013, the book Meatonomics looks at the strange economic forces behind meat and dairy production – and how those forces affect consumers and taxpayers.  It’s a new look at a bizarre, upside-down industry, and its revelations are shocking.

One curious fact to emerge from the book is that animal food producers impose almost $2 in hidden costs on Americans for every $1 of product they sell at retail (for details, see the pie chart below).  Another is that by “externalizing” most of their costs in this fashion and taking other steps to keep prices artificially low and manipulate buying behavior, these producers deprive consumers of the ability to make informed, independent decisions about how much meat and dairy to eat. That’s the main reason Americans consume more meat per person than anyone else on the planet.

Here’s a sneak preview from the book: the never-before-calculated external costs that animal food producers impose on American consumers and taxpayers:

This is the first in a regular series of provocative posts on the forces of meatonomics and how those forces affect our individual health, the environment, how we treat animals, and ultimately, our national prosperity. I hope you’ll subscribe to the blog so you can receive regular updates. Also, please feel free to peruse the site for upcoming events, reviews of the book, sample chapters, pre-ordering information, and more.