Taxpayer Subsidies for Unhealthy Foods

Taxpayer Subsidies for Unhealthy Foods
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What if billions in tax dollars were invested in healthier options, rather than given to corporations to subsidize the very foods that are making us sick?

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Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Why do food companies sell junk? Because “[u’nhealthy commodities are highly profitable [in part] because of their low production cost,…creat[ing] perverse incentives for industries to market and sell more [junk].” Coca-Cola’s [net] profit margins, for example, are about [a] quarter of the retail price, making soft drink production, alongside tobacco production, among the most profitable industrial activities in the world.”

And, one of the reasons production costs are so low is that we taxpayers subsidize it. For more than a century, Western governments have invested heavily in [lowering the costs of] animal products and some basic cash crops,” such as sugar. “Accordingly, Western diets have shifted over the past century,” especially after World War II, to include more animal-sourced foods—meat, poultry, dairy…, seafood and eggs—as well as more sugar…and corn [syrup].”

During this same period, however, we have begun to realize that a healthy diet actually requires fewer animal products and [empty calories], and more vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.” Though “[r]edressing this balance is a complex task requiring not only a shift in agricultural investment and policy, but also changes in social preferences that have developed over decades, in part due to [dollar menu meat].”

Why do you think chicken is so cheap, for example? “In the nine years that followed the passage of the…96 Farm Bill,” corn and soy was subsidized below the cost of production to make cheap animal feed. So, U.S. taxpayers effectively handed the chicken and pork industry around $10 billion dollars each of taxpayer money.

What if we instead subsidized healthy foods? Or taxed harmful ones? Every dollar spent taxing processed foods or taxing milk would net $2 in healthcare cost savings. And every dollar spent making vegetables cheaper would net $3, and subsidizing whole grains could offer like a thousand percent return on our investment, with all the money we would save paying for, you know, Medicare and Medicaid costs.

Unfortunately, we can’t count on Big Broccoli. The produce sector lacks “the extensive funding” that went “to create…the National Dairy Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,” the National Pork Producers Council, and the American Egg Board.

But, even if we removed “the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual subsidies for animal products,” it “might not be sufficient to tip the balance” in favor of healthier diets. “We have created societies in the West that value and consume meat, dairy, poultry, fish,…seafood. Over several generations, a particular way of life has been promoted and this has shifted expectations about diet to include large amounts of animal-sourced foods”—the concept that a meal centers around some kind of hunk of meat.

“The idea that animal products should form the basis of [our diet] has been scientifically debunked, but remains the social aspiration of billions of people” around the globe. As [we in] the West slowly come to accept that [our] diets and eating habits are not healthy, it is to be hoped that” this will change policies not only here, but “throughout the world.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to canvascontent via flickr

Below is an approximation of this video’s audio content. To see any graphs, charts, graphics, images, and quotes to which Dr. Greger may be referring, watch the above video.

Why do food companies sell junk? Because “[u’nhealthy commodities are highly profitable [in part] because of their low production cost,…creat[ing] perverse incentives for industries to market and sell more [junk].” Coca-Cola’s [net] profit margins, for example, are about [a] quarter of the retail price, making soft drink production, alongside tobacco production, among the most profitable industrial activities in the world.”

And, one of the reasons production costs are so low is that we taxpayers subsidize it. For more than a century, Western governments have invested heavily in [lowering the costs of] animal products and some basic cash crops,” such as sugar. “Accordingly, Western diets have shifted over the past century,” especially after World War II, to include more animal-sourced foods—meat, poultry, dairy…, seafood and eggs—as well as more sugar…and corn [syrup].”

During this same period, however, we have begun to realize that a healthy diet actually requires fewer animal products and [empty calories], and more vegetables, fruits, beans and whole grains.” Though “[r]edressing this balance is a complex task requiring not only a shift in agricultural investment and policy, but also changes in social preferences that have developed over decades, in part due to [dollar menu meat].”

Why do you think chicken is so cheap, for example? “In the nine years that followed the passage of the…96 Farm Bill,” corn and soy was subsidized below the cost of production to make cheap animal feed. So, U.S. taxpayers effectively handed the chicken and pork industry around $10 billion dollars each of taxpayer money.

What if we instead subsidized healthy foods? Or taxed harmful ones? Every dollar spent taxing processed foods or taxing milk would net $2 in healthcare cost savings. And every dollar spent making vegetables cheaper would net $3, and subsidizing whole grains could offer like a thousand percent return on our investment, with all the money we would save paying for, you know, Medicare and Medicaid costs.

Unfortunately, we can’t count on Big Broccoli. The produce sector lacks “the extensive funding” that went “to create…the National Dairy Council, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association,” the National Pork Producers Council, and the American Egg Board.

But, even if we removed “the hundreds of billions of dollars in annual subsidies for animal products,” it “might not be sufficient to tip the balance” in favor of healthier diets. “We have created societies in the West that value and consume meat, dairy, poultry, fish,…seafood. Over several generations, a particular way of life has been promoted and this has shifted expectations about diet to include large amounts of animal-sourced foods”—the concept that a meal centers around some kind of hunk of meat.

“The idea that animal products should form the basis of [our diet] has been scientifically debunked, but remains the social aspiration of billions of people” around the globe. As [we in] the West slowly come to accept that [our] diets and eating habits are not healthy, it is to be hoped that” this will change policies not only here, but “throughout the world.”

Please consider volunteering to help out on the site.

Images thanks to canvascontent via flickr

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