Photo by Lukas Budimaier on Unsplash

YES! topic 2018

The Economics of Meat Consumption

by Lukas Tomberg, a researcher at RWI Leibniz Institute for Economic Research in Essen

Selected by Elsa-Brandström Gymnasium Oberhausen

Most German citizens consume meat regularly, commonly because they like the taste or associate it with additional benefits. Thus, the decision between the consumption of meat or other food sources is mainly based on preferences.

This ignores many factors that are apparently connected with this decision. It is known, for instance, that livestock farming is related to high water consumption as well as significant emissions of greenhouse gas. Additionally, excessive meat consumption entails health risks and is detrimental to animal welfare.

Taken together, all of these factors suggest that meat consumption imposes substantial costs that may render it highly inefficient for society at large. The measurement of the societal and private dimension of this inefficiency, as well as the development and evaluation of possible solutions, are fields of applied economics and is the subject of this YES-Challenge.

How much could CO2 emissions be conserved by a reduction of meat consumption?

How significant is this conservation compared to other possibilities of conservation?

How much water could be conserved by a reduction of meat consumption?

How extensive is this conservation compared to other possibilities of conservation?

How much money could households save by reducing their meat consumption?

What economic advantages and disadvantages could a reduction of meat consumption cause?

How can we measure the people’s willingness to accept higher prices on meat in favor of animal welfare?

Which political measures could yield a reduction of meat consumption?

How would you assess the distributional consequences of these measures?

These are some papers, to begin with, especially Lusk and Norwood (2009). It could happen that some of the papers are too technical, in that case omit them or try to understand as much as possible.

de Boer, J., Schösler, H., & Aiking, H. (2014). “Meatless days” or “less but better”? Exploring strategies to adapt Western meat consumption to health and sustainability challenges. Appetite, 76, 120-128.

Dagevos, H., & Voordouw, J. (2013). Sustainability and meat consumption: is reduction realistic?. Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy, 9(2), 60-69.

Grabs, J. (2015). The rebound effects of switching to vegetarianism. A microeconomic analysis of Swedish consumption behavior. Ecological Economics, 116, 270-279.

Hallström, E., Röös, E., & Börjesson, P. (2014). Sustainable meat consumption: A quantitative analysis of nutritional intake, greenhouse gas emissions and land use from a Swedish perspective. Food Policy, 47, 81-90.

Lusk, J. L., & Norwood, F. B. (2009). Some economic benefits and costs of vegetarianism. Agricultural and Resource Economics Review, 38(2), 109-124.

Lusk, J. L., & Norwood, F. B. (2011). Animal welfare economics. Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, 33(4), 463-483.

Lusk, J. L., & Norwood, F. B. (2016). Some vegetarians spend less money on food, others don’t. Ecological Economics, 130, 232-242.

Tucker, C. A. (2014). The significance of sensory appeal for reduced meat consumption. Appetite, 81, 168-179.

Lukas Tomberg

Lukas Tomberg first joined the Department of „Environment and Resources“ at the RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research in October 2015 as an intern. He stayed at the RWI as a research assistant during his master’s program and is on the verge between finishing his master thesis and the beginning of his work as a researcher at the department of „Environment and Resources“.

His research interest is focused on the empirical analysis of topics concerning energy economics and the environment.

Institution: RWI – Leibniz Institute for Economic Research
YES! Participations: 2018