Did you know a $4 Big Mac actually costs almost three times that? Many environmental, nutritional and ethical issues have long been associated with Factory farming; however, many taxpayers are unaware of the tremendous price they pay in real dollars. The modest estimate, according to Dave Simon, is that over $414 billion tax dollars are spent in external costs for factory farming. These costs are mainly attributed to the health care, government subsidy, environmental and cruelty costs for which the livestock sector is solely responsible. Meat consumption is doubling, and Simon is determined in his book Meatonomic$ to convince readers that Americans need to change their eating habits.

Shawing the true cost of a big mac includes healthcare, subsidies, retail price, enviroment, and cruelty

Throughout each chapter, the author dives into the underlying causes of meat production costs- from corruption in Congress to contradictory roles given to the USDA and the tons of waste that farmers have no place to dump. Meatonomic$ is filled with legal and economic jargon, but, near the end of each chapter, Simon clears up any confusing topics and effectively highlights the main ideas. The reader will gain an in-depth understanding of information long underplayed and hidden from them… for example, how the government funds the marketing of meat through check-off programs. Each chapter brings a new revelation to the reader. Many people are conscious of the corruption, cruelty, pollution, the health risks involved with meat consumption… but few suspect how hard it hits their pockets.

The concluding chapter provides solutions including reducing consumption of meat and lobbying for changes in government funding and regulations. Cultured meat is also a valid solution. If available as an alternative, it would reduce conventional meat consumption and would not incur cruelty or environmental costs. Additionally, it’s possible health costs would be lowered, since cultured meat can be engineered to be a healthier product. Hopefully, when cultured meat is industrialized, many of these external costs are alleviated.

Before reading Meatonomic$, I was an average American high school student on the fence between omnivorism and vegetarianism. I was raised in a meat-eating family, and while I understood why being a vegetarian was sensible, I was never provided enough information to sell me completely on the idea. Meatonomic$ educated and motivated me to change my lifestyle forever- or at least until cultured meat and fish are on the market.

Review of Meatonomic$ by Danielle Torrise; New Harvest volunteer and entering 1st year student at the University of Illinois- studying Bioengineering alongside Business.