Beef should be taxed due to the negative externalities that it causes


By Michael Glassman Columnist Meats are delicious foods that- with the exception of vegetarians and vegans- are part of our regular diet. At baseball games, we like to chomp down on a Ball Park Frank. During study breaks, Union students will likely order a beef burrito from Dutch Hollow. On road-trips we eat at a fast food place like Burger King for their juicy hamburgers. Regular Americans believe that fast food’s cheap price is a positive. For instance, a Whopper meal from Burger King (includes drink and fries) costs $6.49. However, the negative effects or ‘externalities’ on the environment and healthcare aren’t factored into making and selling the hamburger. Studies show consumption of hamburger are linked to a number of detrimental health issues. In healthcare systems in some states or organizations where one person gets sick, the rate of another individual will rise. Therefore a tax on meat would help mitigate the burden on those who have healthy diets. It is a stretch to argue -for even a utilitarian- a tax on meat because of the effects on the healthcare system. If the price of a hamburger increases, then individuals may or may not eat healthier. It is nearly impossible to hypothesize how one will substitute a hamburger for either an eggplant or a salty snack. Factory farming has contributed a lot to climate change. Manure from chickens and other animals produce manure that releases carbon monoxide (methane). Methane gas traps 20 times more heat than trapping carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, Cattle release monoxide differently (made in the stomach and released from the mouth and behind) and it’s nearly impossible to capture the monoxide before it makes an impact. A tax on beef should equal the price of the social cost from methane gas released into the atmosphere. Additionally, pools of waste are a by-product from raising and slaughtering thousands of animals. When livestock is concentrated together in an area the spread of anti-biotic resistant bacteria is increased. This is a concern for our public health. Some may argue that a tax on milk also makes sense because the cost of the milk produces on the environment. I believe this argument is flawed because drinking milk doesn’t result in costly medical care and treatments. If a tax was placed on the “cow,” then the entire industry may suffer, compared to just a tax on beef which would allow factory farms to transition. Some speculate the issue that this tax will likely be worse for Americans with lower incomes. Since the tax is flat, or the same for everyone, there will be some who can afford it and others who can’t. An effective way to reduce this burden would be to provide grants for cities with food deserts. The USDA estimates that 23.5 million Americans live in food deserts. These are areas in the United States where people don’t have access to grocery stores or fresh foods. The tax from beef would create a healthier environment by creating city gardens, expanding farm-to-school programs and farmers’ market coupon programs. The tax on beef doesn’t seem likely at all because Americans love buying cheap hamburgers and hate paying taxes. Attempting to pass this kind of legislation is impossible and a political nightmare. Imagine how easy an attack ad would be against the representative who voted to increase the price of meat.There is little hope. A small grassroots movement led by Joe Rogan, comedian and former host of the game show Fear Factor, is part of the Eat what you Kill movement. The size of the number of people involved in this group is unknown. Recently, Chris Pratt declared that he would only eat the meat that he hunts. When celebrities come out with a new lifestyle choice, the behavior gradually becomes normalized in American culture. A tax on beef will lead to less methane emissions in two ways; deter people from buying beef because it’s pricier, and allow for government to expand education and access to healthier food choices.


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