Turkey Prices and Economic Inefficiency

This kind of stuff drives vegetarians crazy. Wholesale price of turkeys: $0.70/lb or more. Retail price of turkeys during Thanksgiving: $0.39/lb. The reason: grocery stores subsidize turkey sales as a loss leader to increase traffic.

I don’t have a problem with people eating turkey on Thanksgiving (or at other times) so long as they pay the true social cost of turkeys. But if meat prices reflected true social costs, people would eat a lot less meat. Instead, subsidies and incomplete cost accounting throughout the manufacturing, distribution and retail chain lead to meat prices well below its true social cost. In turn, underpricing leads to overproduction and overconsumption of turkeys and other meats. So cheap turkey prices makes for an artificially happy Thanksgiving for eaters (and definitely not for turkeys).

Meanwhile, we’ve been reading “Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving” to Jacob. I’m not sure the ultimate conclusion makes sense (I wouldn’t want a live turkey in my house), but it’s a seasonally-topical yet vegetarian-friendly book.

UPDATE: Reuters talks about the heritage turkey phenomenon, where people can watch a webcam of free-range turkeys frolic before meeting the ax. I wonder why this website is treated differently than the SaveToby.com website?

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