Statement of Task
An ad hoc committee will organize a 1.5-day public information-gathering workshop to examine the challenges inherent in estimating the costs of the U.S. food system not reflected in retail prices and to consider the kind of research strategy that would be needed to approach such a full-scale accounting. The workshop will identify the types of information sources and methodologies required to recognize and estimate the costs and benefits of externalities and unintended public health consequences associated with the U.S. food system.
While the central focus of the workshop will be to understand how to account for externalities and unintended public health consequences of the U.S. food system broadly, meat will be used as a case study with which to explore how to approach the measurement of environmental and public health effects. The workshop planning committee will select the animal species (e.g., beef, pork, chicken, or fish) and different production, marketing, distribution, and retail systems that would provide the most appropriate points for analysis. It is anticipated that the workshop will identify key categories of externalities and unintended public health consequences associated with the production and consumption of meat, the extent of information available on each of the categories, appropriate metrics for quantification, limitations and knowledge gaps, as well as modeling and other analytical approaches needed to establish the value of these costs and benefits.
The workshop would also provide the basis for a follow-on planning discussion involving members of the IOM Food and Nutrition Board and NRC Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources and others to develop the scope and areas of expertise needed for a larger-scale, consensus study of the subject. Based on the framing of the study by the planning discussion, it is envisioned that a central task of the work of a subsequent consensus study committee will be to develop a framework for true-cost accounting of the U.S. food system and to attempt to draw supportable conclusions about the true costs of food.
tive. Currently, no framework is available for analyzing in a comprehensive and systematic way how the food system impacts public health. Although the CDC’s initial intention was to focus on public health, Haddix described the food system as being so complex and interactive that it is impossible to separate the health consequences of the food system from environmental, economic, social justice, and other consequences. Thus, the workshop planning committee invited a diverse group of experts and stakeholders to participate in the discussion, including economists, farmers, environmental and agricultural scientists, and public health experts. Their expertise spanned the entire course of the food life cycle.
Given the diversity of perspectives, numerous challenges and complexities regarding the types of information sources and methodologies available to measure the health and environmental costs and benefits associated with