Vegetarian Discussion: Growing Crops For Livestock Feed Is Not "inefficient"

Growing Crops For Livestock Feed Is Not "inefficient"
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Leif Erikson
2006-02-12 13:33:30 EST
People who claim it is "inefficient" to grow crops for
livestock feed reveal only that they are completely
ignorant about economics; total economic illiterates.

At its simplest, economics is the study of how scarce
resources are allocated to the satisfaction of human
wants. It is crucially important to note that the
field of economics takes those human wants as given; it
has nothing to say about whether those are the "right"
things for humans to want in the first place.

The most basic sense of "efficiency" in economics is
that resources are allocated to their highest valued
use. One issue raised by critics of economics is that
looking only at how much people are willing to pay for
something doesn't adequately reveal how highly they
value it, because of income and wealth differences. A
very hungry man with only 10¢ in his pocket probably
places a higher value on a hamburger than does a
millionaire who has already eaten a hamburger and
thinks he might like another. But the poor man has no
way to reveal his higher value in a system that only
responds to money prices willingly paid by consumers.

There is an easy answer to this, of course, that
preserves willingness to pay as the best way of
determining the highest valued use of a resource. If
we look at any given consumer, with whatever amount of
money he has, we can see that if you offer him, say, an
apple or an orange at the same price (assume the two
cost the same to produce and distribute), and he always
chooses the apple, then clearly he has revealed that he
prefers apples to oranges. As far as this consumer is
concerned, resources allocated to producing oranges are
less efficiently than if they were allocated to
producing apples.

Allocating resources to their *measurably* highest
valued use, which is revealed by how much people are
willing *and able* to pay for the resources, is not
only efficient but perfectly fair. In the hamburger
example above, the owner of the restaurant has neither
the incentive nor the moral obligation to try to
determine that the poor guy with only 10¢ wants the
hamburger more than the rich guy who has already eaten
one. The owner is in business in the first place to
make money in order to satisfy his own demand for goods
and services, and he has both the legal and moral
rights to make as much as he can. The poor hungry guy
can't reveal his higher value on the hamburger in a way
that makes a compelling case for the restaurant owner
to sell the hamburger to him for 10¢ rather than to the
rich guy for $5.00. If we work backward to the
allocation of resources that went into making the
hamburger available in the first place, we see that at
every step along the way, resources were allocated to
whatever uses caused the most money to be paid to the
resource owners. There is no valid reason to expect
the restaurant owner suddenly to behave any differently.

So, we take as a *given* that people want meat, and are
willing to pay for it. We can tell that people
generally want meat more than they want a nutritionally
equivalent amount of beans and corn because meat costs
more per nutritional unit than beans and corn together,
yet consumers willingly pay the higher price. The
price is higher in part because more resources are
required. But this higher resource use for meat cannot
be called "inefficient", or a "wasted" use of
resources, because people *want* the resources to be
used in that way, and they freely pay for them.
Consumers don't simply want "nutritionally equivalent
units"; they want specific foods in specific forms and
tastes.

This idea about some goods requiring more resources
than others can perhaps be illustrated by looking at
different quality levels of what are fundamentally the
same goods. Rolex watches, Mercedes-Benz cars and USDA
prime beef are more expensive than Timex, Kia and USDA
standard beef, respectively, because they require far
more resources to produce. There is no valid basis for
saying the system is "wasting" resources by allocating
them to the production of the higher priced goods.

It is not "wasting" resources to grow feed crops for
livestock; it is a *choice* that is made in a free
market. Those resources could, of course, go to some
other use, or not be used at all (another choice). If
they *are* used for some particular purpose, then we
assume they are going to their *highest valued* use, as
measured by people's willingness to pay. Why do we
assume this? Simple: because if someone else was
willing to pay more for the resources to go to some
alternate use, the owners of the resources would sell
to that resource user instead.

Leif Erikson
2006-02-12 15:12:16 EST
Just as with the collateral animal deaths issue, we can
easily show that the "vegans"/"aras" who blabber about
"inefficient" resource use for meat production aren't
really serious about it by looking at the elements of a
strictly vegetarian diet.

It is obvious that different vegetable and fruit crops
require different quantities of land, labor, water,
fertilizer and other resources in order to produce
nutritionally equivalent amounts of yield. For
example, leaf vegetables like cabbage and lettuce
require considerably more water than do root vegetables
(potatoes, beets, turnips), and vastly more than wheat
and corn. They also require vastly more labor for
their cultivation (weeding) and harvesting. Thus, a
head of lettuce, which doesn't contain that much
nutrition, costs substantially more than a pound of
potatoes, which supply quite a lot of nutrition.

So, do we hear "vegans" complain about "inefficient"
use of resources for the production of strawberries,
radicchio, tomatoes, avocados, alfalfa sprouts and
other vegetables and fruits that require lots of
resources compared with potatoes, turnips, green beans
and onions? Of course not!

Just as "vegans" are not concerned in the least with
consuming only vegetables that cause fewer CDs, they
also aren't concerned with consuming only the lowest
resource-using vegetables. It's a very bad smokescreen
on their part.

Ron
2006-02-12 16:15:30 EST

Leif Erikson wrote:
> People who claim it is "inefficient" to grow crops for
> livestock feed reveal only that they are completely
> ignorant about economics; total economic illiterates.
>
> At its simplest, economics is the study of how scarce
> resources are allocated to the satisfaction of human
> wants. It is crucially important to note that the
> field of economics takes those human wants as given; it
> has nothing to say about whether those are the "right"
> things for humans to want in the first place.
>
> The most basic sense of "efficiency" in economics is
> that resources are allocated to their highest valued
> use. One issue raised by critics of economics is that
> looking only at how much people are willing to pay for
> something doesn't adequately reveal how highly they
> value it, because of income and wealth differences. A
> very hungry man with only 10¢ in his pocket probably
> places a higher value on a hamburger than does a
> millionaire who has already eaten a hamburger and
> thinks he might like another. But the poor man has no
> way to reveal his higher value in a system that only
> responds to money prices willingly paid by consumers.
>
> There is an easy answer to this, of course, that
> preserves willingness to pay as the best way of
> determining the highest valued use of a resource. If
> we look at any given consumer, with whatever amount of
> money he has, we can see that if you offer him, say, an
> apple or an orange at the same price (assume the two
> cost the same to produce and distribute), and he always
> chooses the apple, then clearly he has revealed that he
> prefers apples to oranges. As far as this consumer is
> concerned, resources allocated to producing oranges are
> less efficiently than if they were allocated to
> producing apples.
>
> Allocating resources to their *measurably* highest
> valued use, which is revealed by how much people are
> willing *and able* to pay for the resources, is not
> only efficient but perfectly fair. In the hamburger
> example above, the owner of the restaurant has neither
> the incentive nor the moral obligation to try to
> determine that the poor guy with only 10¢ wants the
> hamburger more than the rich guy who has already eaten
> one. The owner is in business in the first place to
> make money in order to satisfy his own demand for goods
> and services, and he has both the legal and moral
> rights to make as much as he can. The poor hungry guy
> can't reveal his higher value on the hamburger in a way
> that makes a compelling case for the restaurant owner
> to sell the hamburger to him for 10¢ rather than to the
> rich guy for $5.00. If we work backward to the
> allocation of resources that went into making the
> hamburger available in the first place, we see that at
> every step along the way, resources were allocated to
> whatever uses caused the most money to be paid to the
> resource owners. There is no valid reason to expect
> the restaurant owner suddenly to behave any differently.
>
> So, we take as a *given* that people want meat, and are
> willing to pay for it. We can tell that people
> generally want meat more than they want a nutritionally
> equivalent amount of beans and corn because meat costs
> more per nutritional unit than beans and corn together,
> yet consumers willingly pay the higher price. The
> price is higher in part because more resources are
> required. But this higher resource use for meat cannot
> be called "inefficient", or a "wasted" use of
> resources, because people *want* the resources to be
> used in that way, and they freely pay for them.
> Consumers don't simply want "nutritionally equivalent
> units"; they want specific foods in specific forms and
> tastes.
>
> This idea about some goods requiring more resources
> than others can perhaps be illustrated by looking at
> different quality levels of what are fundamentally the
> same goods. Rolex watches, Mercedes-Benz cars and USDA
> prime beef are more expensive than Timex, Kia and USDA
> standard beef, respectively, because they require far
> more resources to produce. There is no valid basis for
> saying the system is "wasting" resources by allocating
> them to the production of the higher priced goods.
>
> It is not "wasting" resources to grow feed crops for
> livestock; it is a *choice* that is made in a free
> market. Those resources could, of course, go to some
> other use, or not be used at all (another choice). If
> they *are* used for some particular purpose, then we
> assume they are going to their *highest valued* use, as
> measured by people's willingness to pay. Why do we
> assume this? Simple: because if someone else was
> willing to pay more for the resources to go to some
> alternate use, the owners of the resources would sell
> to that resource user instead.


Ron
2006-02-12 16:16:50 EST

Leif Erikson wrote:



<meat industry shill borgbabble excised>


Anyone need anymore proof that ~jonnie~ the Goober is nothing but a
meat industry shill?


Pearl
2006-02-12 16:42:45 EST
"Leif Erikson" <pipes@thedismalscience.net> wrote in message news:_bLHf.14413$rH5.6270@newsread2.news.atl.earthlink.net...
> People who claim it is "inefficient" to grow crops for
> livestock feed reveal only that they are completely
> ignorant about economics; total economic illiterates.

'Livestock are directly or indirectly responsible for much of
the soil erosion in the United States, the ecologist determined.
On lands where feed grain is produced, soil loss averages 13
tons per hectare per year. Pasture lands are eroding at a slower
pace, at an average of 6 tons per hectare per year. But erosion
may exceed 100 tons on severely overgrazed pastures, and 54
percent of U.S. pasture land is being overgrazed. '
http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Aug97/livestock.hrs.html

"Only when the last tree has died and the last river been
poisoned and the last fish been caught will we realise we
cannot eat money." ~ 19th Century Cree Proverb



R*@yahoo.com
2006-02-12 17:00:30 EST

Leif Erikson wrote:
> People who claim it is "inefficient" to grow crops for
> livestock feed reveal only that they are completely
> ignorant about economics; total economic illiterates.
>

No, they just reveal that they're concerned with a different sense of
"efficiency" to you.


R*@yahoo.com
2006-02-12 17:03:06 EST

Leif Erikson wrote:
> Just as with the collateral animal deaths issue, we can
> easily show that the "vegans"/"aras" who blabber about
> "inefficient" resource use for meat production aren't
> really serious about it by looking at the elements of a
> strictly vegetarian diet.
>
> It is obvious that different vegetable and fruit crops
> require different quantities of land, labor, water,
> fertilizer and other resources in order to produce
> nutritionally equivalent amounts of yield. For
> example, leaf vegetables like cabbage and lettuce
> require considerably more water than do root vegetables
> (potatoes, beets, turnips), and vastly more than wheat
> and corn. They also require vastly more labor for
> their cultivation (weeding) and harvesting. Thus, a
> head of lettuce, which doesn't contain that much
> nutrition, costs substantially more than a pound of
> potatoes, which supply quite a lot of nutrition.
>
> So, do we hear "vegans" complain about "inefficient"
> use of resources for the production of strawberries,
> radicchio, tomatoes, avocados, alfalfa sprouts and
> other vegetables and fruits that require lots of
> resources compared with potatoes, turnips, green beans
> and onions? Of course not!
>
> Just as "vegans" are not concerned in the least with
> consuming only vegetables that cause fewer CDs, they
> also aren't concerned with consuming only the lowest
> resource-using vegetables. It's a very bad smokescreen
> on their part.

They should be concerned with minimizing CDs. However, it's not clear
that they should only consume the lower resource-using vegetables. They
might just not want to consume a product that is gratuitously
environmentally destructive, that doesn't necessarily mean they want to
minimize their consumption of resources.


Rudy Canoza's Empty Skull
2006-02-12 17:22:20 EST
"that doesn't necessarily mean they want to
minimize their consumption of resources."


How do you figure?


Skywayz
2006-02-12 18:52:16 EST
Leif is just another example of someone who knows a little neoclassical
economic dogma, mixes it with reactionary language, and runs with it.


R*@yahoo.com
2006-02-12 22:28:31 EST

Rudy Canoza's Empty Skull wrote:
> "that doesn't necessarily mean they want to
> minimize their consumption of resources."
>
>
> How do you figure?

It just doesn't follow. Just because they don't want to contribute to
gratuitous enviromental destruction, doesn't mean they want to do
absolutely everything to minimize their consumption of resources.
Presumably some will, some won't. For the ones that do, Leif's point is
perfectly reasonable.

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