Thursday, August 12, 2010

Buying Chickens Room to Run

Interesting article in today's NYT: the animal rights activists are having some success in getting farmers to give more space to their animals. Great direct quote: producers estimate that egg prices will rise by 25% if chickens are raised outside of cages. That's probably a bit of an overstatement, since producers want everyone to fear the worst, but we'd have to expect some kind of increase.

What would be the dietary consequences of a price rise for eggs? I don't know enough about the American diet to know if a drop in egg consumption would be good or bad overall, but obviously there would be some of both. People who need inexpensive protein would lose out, but people with cholesterol problems (or potential cholesterol problems) might actually benefit. On balance I'd say the bad would probably outweigh the good from a dietary perspective. Do the benefits to society from improved animal rights balance that out? What do you think?

I myself am not very concerned with animal rights, but another impact may be environmental consequences. If "factory farms" fall out of favor, that would greatly change meat farming as well, limiting the damage caused by hog and chicken farming as well. Again, there would be a very literal price to pay, as meat prices would rise, but the environment would be less burdened by the concentrated animal waste that currently accumulates. That would be a more appealing tradeoff to me personally, though I'd like to know more about how much meat consumption would change. Lots of questions here!

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