By Brian Merchant, TreeHugger
On average, Americans eat three burgers a week. That may sound surprising in statistic form, but it squares pretty evenly with our nation’s fast food infatuation.
It’s also the very first factoid presented in this neat little video from the Center for Investigative Reporting (the same folks who did the great ‘Hidden Cost of Gas’ video). ‘The Hidden Cost of Hamburgers’ seeks to educate viewers about the true cost of our beefy eating habits.
A hamburger may cost you ~99 cents at Wendy’s, but there are a slew of additional costs that those beef-pattied buns impose on society at large—environmental impacts of beef production, extra healthcare costs for obesity-related issues, etc. As such, CIR calculates that every burger costs us an additional $1.51 in hidden costs, which adds up to $72 million in extra costs a year.
The group explains at its website: (via Grist)
“We looked at a range of ways beef is produced and came up with an average that is close to how a cow would be raised in Fresno, Calif.: about 1 pound of greenhouse gases per ounce of beef, or about 6˝ pounds of greenhouse gases per quarter-pounder. We looked at studies that showed the health costs of treating overweight people and associated illnesses, such as high blood pressure, stroke and diabetes — that’s about 75 cents per burger. Then we looked at how much water it takes to produce a pound of beef — that’s about 50 cents per burger.
We also looked at the price of a ton of carbon — that’s remarkably small for the U.S., less than one-hundredth of a penny. But in the European Union, because it has a functioning carbon market, the price would be about a nickel per burger. Daniel Lopez Dias, the lead economist on the calculations, notes that these figures are conservative and don’t include effects from air and water pollution, effects of low wages that slaughterhouse workers receive and the high risk of injury they face, or general effects of urban sprawl.”
The point is, of course, that those costs don’t cut into the fast food companies and industrial-scale ranchers’ profit margins; instead, the public absorbs the true price of hamburgers.