Thank you all for your answers.
Rich, maybe not in my lifetime, but I think organic sustainable production of food is the only answer for long term. And while small farmers may not be making a lot of money, I recently read (I didn't bookmark it) that some of the larger organic farms, like ones that have been doing it since the 70s are more profitable than some factory food entities. Surely just the clear cutting of old growth (rain) forests to raise cattle and soy is just one factor that shows that CAFO is short-sighted.
Machines doing the work of humans was something I didn't factor in. And the shoe analogy was perfect. Maybe by the time I'm a rickety old cavewoman of 100, our efforts and those of other folks (don't count out those veggie folks) will bring prices more in line.
Sydney. Oops. It's not that I don't like children, I'm just a bit noise averse. I never had any (always figured I was too nuts to be a good mother), so my nervous system isn't adapted to squeals, tantrums, etc. I actually think children are quite fun and ask the best questions.
Again, thank you everyone!
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Its only noticeably more expensive when you compare equivalent cuts side by side at a grocery retailer. A retailer will always charge what they can get away with. You can save $$ by not buying grocery store meat.
I don't buy my grass fed beef by the cut at a retailer. I buy it by the 1/2 or 1/4 from a local grower, butchered by a local butcher. I end up paying about $5.50/lb (cut, wrapped & flash frozen) for everything from ground beef to prime rib. Our game meat is naturally organic and grass fed, and costs about half as much, and we get most of it made into hamburger and sausage.
I see the biggest price difference in chicken. I can buy grocery store whole chickens on sale for $2/lb but the free run, family raised, no hormone, antibiotic free, omnivorous, kitchen scrap and bug eating whole chickens -- when available -- cost about $3.25/lb.
Feeding animals on grass on land you rent/own produces less yield than feeding cows grain. You need quite a lot of land to feed animals, where as with grain feeding, you need extremely little. Organic requires higher standards of welfare since you can't use antibiotics on the animals. Thats the long and short of it.
The reason standard ag is so cheap is because the environmental costs are externalized. They are either paid for right now by others (other than those who actually profit) or else the costs are pushed forward into the future. For example, a person raising hogs in an indoor hog operation (same for indoor chickens) does not own the hogs. He is only a contractor. He will eventually be responsible for the cleanup of the lagoons. He is forced to take out loans to upgrade the equipment. He's paid a very low wage. I saw in some movie that a lady running an indoor chicken operation was paid $18,000 a year and had to take out million dollar loans for upgrades whenever the industry wanted new equipment that would increase production. This sort of externalizing the costs happens in a lot of industries, not just farming.
You all should see Joe Salatin's talk from the AHS 2012. His farm is extremely fecund and productive and he has a LOT to say on the subject of farm productivity and how we're going to have to do things if we want to be truly alive, human and have a decent future. Really inspiring.
AHS 12 Presentations on Vimeo
Female, 5'3", 50, Max squat: 202.5lbs. Max deadlift: 225 x 3.