The Low Cost of Chickens

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The Low Cost of Chickens

By Ezra Klein,

I've not yet read Ellen Ruppel Shell's "Cheap: The High Cost of Discount Culture", but I have read a review of the book, and even a blog post about the review of the book, which in D.C., puts me ahead of the game to comment.

“Cheap chicken, cheap shirts, cheap sneakers — they’re all being paid for by somebody, even if it’s not the person taking them home," writes Shell. Chicken is an interesting example here: It's really cheap. I can get a whole rotisserie chicken at Harris-Teeter for the price of two bunches of carrots. But why? Well, one reason is that we're incredibly cruel to chickens. Another is that we lower labor costs by using a lot of illegal immigrants in processing factories. Another is that our agricultural policy subsidizes the grains that go into chicken feed. Another is that we don't price carbon.

But you have to know a fair amount about chicken processing to know all of that. The information consumers actually have access to is the price tag. Which is why one of government's more traditional roles is to make sure the price tag reflects inputs we're comfortable with. You're allowed to compete on low prices, but not on low prices derived from slave labor, or asbestos-coated production facilities, or theft. At various times, we've outlawed competition on those measures. And I sort of wonder how long we'll allow chicken producers to compete on low prices derived from incredible cruelty to animals, exploitation of illegal workers, and taxpayer subsidies to the corn industry. It's a pretty ugly scene, and the product eventually ends up on our plates.

Visit our image gallery and video library to learn the truth about chickens slaughtered to be food.

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