Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

Ignoring The Compared To What In The Meat System

Well, yes, this is true:

And they sense the real threat to their way of life – including Saturday night sirloin – is an ossified oligopoly food system that teetered on the brink of collapse last spring when its workers were overcome by Covid. Meat prices shot up 50% when the Waterloo and Sioux Falls pork plants shut down for a week. There was no way they could let the squeal go out of Storm Lake. For the first time in my life, meat counters were empty. The system failed. We have wrung the diversity out of the food supply chain. Just a few producers and packers stand, and when one of them falls we are all the hungrier.

When the meat production system falls over then meat becomes scarce. No doubt about that.

Livestock can be sheltered humanely for efficient food production and better protection from disease. We can finish a lot more cattle on grass for the benefit of the planet. We can enhance food security with more diversity in production and open, competitive markets. Almost everyone in the midwest understands those basic facts.

Diversity of supply is indeed security of supply, no doubt about that either.

But we must always ask Thomas Sowell’s question – compared to what?

Well, that diverse supply of grass fed beef from small producers, umm, it costs a lot more. Meat prices might rise by 50% forever. In fact, back when we had just such a system meat prices were much, much, more than 50% above their current real ones. The reason we’ve got the meat production system we do is because it’s cheaper than the old ways. That’s why it has outcompeted the old ways.

We get to an interesting question. How much poverty do we want for how much stability or resilience? No, not how much does some journalist think we should have. Nor, obviously, whatever Godawful ukase will come down from the fighting of special interest groups within politics. No, how much do we the citizenry wish to pay for either or even which of the three? We can have higher prices and more diversity of supply. We can have higher and more stable prices. But perhaps we prefer the often cheaper and yet more variable?

Gosh, if only we had some system of working through this. Say, each individual made their concerns known by spending their own money on gaining their desired mix of these things. We’d have to come up with a name for this sort of thing though. Umm, markets maybe? Economic liberty? Perhaps we should leave the branding until later but that base idea that each of us gets to choose our optimal trade off has legs doesn’t it?

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Arthur the Cat
Arthur the Cat
4 months ago

“We can finish a lot more cattle on grass for the benefit of the planet.”

Much though I love the idea of happy moo cows munching on juicy grass, they’re actually worse for the planet. They take longer to get to target weight so belch more methane during their lifetime.

Boganboy
Boganboy
4 months ago

Your system does appeal to my natural stinginess Tim.

Spike
Spike
4 months ago

“For the first time in my life, meat counters were empty.” Not all of them. The shut plants were pork plants. Pork prices shot up, we bought different types of meat, whose prices inched up, no one starved. Good grief! this crisis lacks even a problem statement!

Do we want such gunpoint reforms as will guarantee prices never fluctuate—given that providers already work to avoid unpleasant price surprises?

TD
TD
4 months ago

U.S. per capita beef consumption peaked in the mid 1970s at almost 95 pounds per year and has since fallen by more than a third to less than 60 pounds. During the same period we increased our consumption of poultry dramatically. So, we already eat a lot less beef. Are they never satisfied?

https://www.nationalchickencouncil.org/about-the-industry/statistics/per-capita-consumption-of-poultry-and-livestock-1965-to-estimated-2012-in-pounds/

John B
John B
4 months ago
Reply to  TD

Are they never satisfied?’

No. A feature of all cause-mongers.

John B
John B
4 months ago

It doesn’t matter how cattle are fed, if people are not available to slaughter, butcher, process the meat.

It is a feature of the Church of Environmentism not to see the whole picture, not to see all the moving parts and how they interconnect.

john77
john77
4 months ago

Compare and contrast with the Holodomor or the “Great Leap Forward” when millions actually starved to death.

Steve
Steve
4 months ago

“… each individual made their concerns known by spending their own money on gaining their desired mix of these things.”

True, but we need a far better educated public to make the most of this. Which of course is uphill because education was one of the first things the loonies captured.l

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