Not Another Veggie Sob Story: Economic Value of Giving Up Meat

Sabrina Torres

    Many people feel hassled by so called “radical” environmental or animal rights organizations that promote eating less meat or lowering carbon emissions. Environmentalists have received major critique over the years by not considering more factors beyond nature and public health. Although this should be enough, it’s not. In this day of age, people are focused on money, profit and success. In this article, we will discuss how cost effective it is to consume less meat and/or live a plant based lifestyle.

   Besides discussing facts of reducing animal suffering, it’s time for environmentalists to speak the language people are interested in and consider how environmental benefits and healthier lives translate to raised annual income, more jobs and raised overall national revenue. There is a “social cost of carbon” which estimates the value of damages caused by each additional ton of carbon emissions (Chavez, 2016). By considering health costs caused by environmental degradation, $180 billion dollars would be saved in the United States alone by reducing 56% red meat consumption.      

   The meat and dairy industry are top contributors to the climate change. This industry is not concerned over quality and health of the consumers but on the maximum profits they can gain. It contributes to 14.5% of the world’s anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and requires ineffective amounts of resources (Lusk, 2017). It takes 3.4 million gallons of water a day to supply water for animals for the meat and dairy industry. To put this in perspective, it takes 50 gallons of water to produce two slices of cheese. This inefficient practice in agro-economics is unsustainable and thankfully adjusting with the population’s current demand for more plant based options. Consuming less to no meat has become a method some take to reduce agricultural pollution (David, 2016).

    People now have more access to education than ever and are learning about healthier options for themselves and their environment. With consumers becoming more aware of farming practices, there has been noticeable opposition towards the existing market seen through the large push for increasing the size of cages for chickens and sourcing beef from free-range farms (David, 2016). This recent shift in demand aligns environmental ethics and economics simultaneously; a direction I believe most people can agree to climb on board with. Entrepreneurs and consumers are exhibiting an entirely new conscious food economy that is disrupting the existing food system with healthier, more sustainable foods. The benefits of eating less or no meat includes preventing up $1 trillion dollar annually in healthcare costs caused by agriculture-related carbon emissions. The economic benefits include less resources than animal agriculture such as for every 9 gallons of water, 30 gallons of soy milk is created. On the other side of the spectrum, for every 30 gallons of water, 1 gallon of cow’s milk is produced. Businesses save money spending less on resources to produce alternative goods consumers demand and are willing to pay even a bit extra for. The plant based sector brought $4.7 billion dollars in revenue creating 65,000 jobs and is associated with lessening greenhouse gases ten times less than beef based products (Martinko, 2017). Shifting away from meat consumption, when performed ethically and efficiently, is the more sustainable route for agriculture.

Image result for water usage by crop gallons per pound

Image result for 3 primary gases responsible for global warming vegetarianism

   Take a second to reflect how frequently meat has appeared on your plate? American society loves their protein based diet and are easily offended when spoken to about the questionable ethics behind eating animals. Let’s say these exemplary type of people even understand the environmental impacts behind the meat and dairy agriculture industry. What if the impacts of a non-meat diet was discussed on a micro level on how much their carnivorous lifestyle costs compared to a non-meat eaters diet. Multiple studies have found that just a one-percent reduction in meat consumption per week would save an individual $2.40 (The Economics of Vegetarianism). Over a years span equates to a savings of nearly $125 dollar. For some homes, that is at least two to three months worth of groceries. According to PBS, the average American eats about 50 pounds of chicken per year which adds up to about $250 dollars just on chicken. The equivalent for a vegetarian would be about $50 dollars a year for black beans, saving them about $200 dollars by simply consuming less-to-zero meat. Remember, when buying meat, for example beef, the consumer is paying for the grains fed to the animal; the rancher’s overhead; the animal’s slaughter; and the processing, packaging, and transporting of the meat (Null)

   In conclusion, there is ethical, environmental and now economic evidence on reasons to consider lessening meat intake. It is a fair statement that most people have experienced the economy in someway. This is a route I recommend environmentalists and animal enthusiasts to take when encouraging others to consider adjusting their lifestyle. Speak to them in ways they are concerned about. If money is their current concern in life, use the economic statistics to your advantage. The truth is revealed in the figures that show how cost effective plant based foods are compared to the existing, heavily market meat industry. Businesses are adjusting to the dramatic shift in demand for sustainable food products. The plant based sector has made an impression that is a wonderful start in ways people can make more conscious decisions for their health, their environment and their wallet.


Works Cited

Chavez, Veronica. “Plant-Based Food Isn’t Just Helping the Planet, It’s Helping the U.S. Economy Too!” One Green Planet, 21 Sept. 2016,

Davis, Lauren Cassani. “The Economic Case for Worldwide Vegetarianism.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 28 Mar. 2016

Lusk, Jayson L., and F. Bailey Norwood. “Some Economic Benefits and Costs of Vegetarianism | Agricultural and Resource Economics Review.” Cambridge Core, Cambridge University Press, 15 Sept. 2016

Martinko, Katherine. “Study Reveals Tremendous Benefits of Eating Less Meat.” TreeHugger, Treehugger, 12 Sept. 2017

Null, Gary. Economic and Taste Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet (October 2011) Townsend Letter for Doctors & Patients, Oct. 2011

“The Economics of Vegetarianism.”, 13 Feb. 2013,


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