Monday, June 20, 2011

Some economic benefits and costs of vegetarianism

Vegetarian diets generally are the most economical way to acquire food energy and protein, according to a 2009 article in the Agricultural and Resource Economics Review by Oklahoma State University agricultural economists Jayson Lusk and F. Bailey Norwood.

The pattern is sufficiently strong, the authors find, that "sizable demand shifts away from meat consumption would result in significantly lower corn prices and production."  As a consequence, both plant-based and animal-based diets would become less expensive.

It is worth noting that some fruit and vegetable production is expensive on a per calorie basis, and also that animal food production makes efficient use of some agricultural resources that are particularly suitable, such as marginal grasslands.  Also, the authors emphasize that high-meat diets are highly desirable to many consumers.  Still, the basic thrust of the article is that more nearly vegetarian diets would make efficient use of food production resources. 

Similar points have also been made by many other writers covering food production and the environment, but it is interesting to see the issue quantified so plainly by economists at a leading land-grant university.

Salinas Valley, 2011 (P. Wilde)

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