Paying the Price for Eating Meat

The Costs and Consequences of the Modern Meat Industry and Policy Implications for the Poor and Undernourished
May 9, 2010
by Peter Shelton

“Eating meat is something new now,” states Joel E. Cohen during the first annual Malthus Lecture titled “Meat,” which was delivered on March 3, 2010 in Washington, DC. According to Cohen, the Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of Populations at The Rockefeller University and the Earth Institute of Columbia University, the meat industry as we know it has undergone significant changes in terms of its overall magnitude, geographic scope and complexity and “the costs and consequences of eating meat have changed from largely local to local and global.” Based on these findings as well as current statistics on the overall number of undernourished persons worldwide, Cohen argues that “we should take steps make the prices of meat to consumers and costs to producers reflect the full costs of meat production, processing, distribution and consumption.” Moreover, Cohen asserts, this needs to be done in such a way as to protect the most vulnerable members of society, whom he identifies as infants, pregnant and lactating women, teenagers and those who identify as having unmet need in the area family planning, especially in countries with high populations of poor and undernourished citizens.

The full lecture is available for viewing at (approx. running time: 1 hr.). The question and answer session is available at (approx. running time: 41 min.).

The Malthus Lectureship, a partnership between the Population Reference Bureau and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), promotes the study of the connections among nutrition, food, agriculture, and population and invites an outstanding scholar or policymaker to give a presentation each year.