As is the case with anything in life, there are costs, and there are benefits, and determining the proper balance between the two is often an arduous task. And, as is the case with any questionable topic, there are studies and analyses on many topics that painstakingly list those costs and benefits, usually in exceedingly dry terms. Vegetarianism and veganism are no different.
Not to say that being vegetarian or vegan is controversial, but it certainly is a movement in its relative infancy in the U.S.; the first major contributor of the idea was author Frances Moore Lappe with the book “Diet for a Small Planet,” and many long-term health studies on the effects of low- or no-meat diets did not begin until the late 1980s. While the short term effects and myths of vegetarian and veganism have been documented by both meat-eaters and herbivores, one variable that seems constant in the minds of most people when determining their diet is monetary cost. Which diet is cheaper: your standard “some-meat” diet, or going total veggie? Let’s take a look at the economics of the two diets.
Error. Page cannot be displayed. Please contact your service provider for more details. (17)According to a 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics report, the average couple spent $575 per month on food, equating to about $6,900 per year. The Agricultural and Resource Economics Review published their analysis of vegetarian food habits in 2009 with some interesting results. Costs of corn and wheat production in the U.S. are significantly lower than the costs of producing meat or milk. While it is important to keep in mind that the nutritional contents of crops and livestock are not identical, the analysis did find that obtaining a calorie of energy from the cheapest meat product is five-times more costly than obtaining a calorie of energy from the most expensive plant-based product. For protein, the numbers are similar; obtaining a gram from the cheapest meat product is 3.26 times more costly than obtaining a gram of protein from the most expensive plant-based product: peanuts. That is quite a wild swing.
So in terms of equilibrium, it is beneficial for some percentage of the population to eat meat. Indeed, meat-eaters are seven times less likely to develop zinc deficiencies than vegetarians, and they naturally maintain correct levels of vitamin B12, but those are two products that are easy to find as supplements. And what about costs on the micro-level, things that actually affect your own wallet?