The Costs of Cheap Meat

By Monica Eng, 24 September 2010
www.chicagotribune.com

If you adjust for inflation and income, Americans have never spent less on food than they have in recent years. And yet many feel we've also never paid such a high price.

U.S. Department of Agriculture figures show the average American spent just 9.5 percent of his or her disposable income on food last year, a lower percentage than in any country in the world.

And although meat consumption has risen slightly over the past 40 years, its impact on the pocketbook is less than half of what it was in 1970, falling from 4.1 percent to 1.6 percent in 2008.

The majority of this cheap protein is delivered by "factory farms" that house thousands of animals in confinement. These concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, produce mass quantities of food at low cost.

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