2006; Schinasi et al., 2011; Tajik et al., 2008; Wing and Wolf, 2000; Wing et al., 2008). He commented on how animal consumption costs are related to health inequalities as well, with people who live in low-income areas having limited food choices.
Ricardo Salvador, director and senior scientist in the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists, expanded on the theme of food choice. He discussed dynamics among poverty, food insecurity, and health and made the case that health is partly a reflection of one’s environment and that not everyone has access to the same food choices. He argued that accessibility to food is a social issue, not just an economic issue, and therefore that using an economic model as a framework for studying the cost of food limits what can be detected.
Finally, Jayson Lusk, professor and Willard Sparks Endowed Chair in the Department of Agricultural Economics at Oklahoma State University, described the costs and benefits of animal welfare legislation and methods used to value those costs and benefits. He emphasized the importance of trade-offs when analyzing the cost of food. With respect to animal welfare, the question is not the well-being of animals; the question is, what do we have to give up to attain that benefit?
Food production systems can be thought of as agricultural ecosystems that are managed to provide food. In other words, according to a framework laid out in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA),2 food production systems yield what are known as “provisioning” ecosystem services. Food production systems also generate a suite of other, nonprovisioning ecosystem services (e.g., some farms provide aesthetic services, others provide fiber and bioenergy); they also rely on various ecosystem services (i.e., services that allow crops to grow, soil to form, etc.) (Swinton et al., 2007). Of course, not all ecosystem inflows and outflows are desirable. Ecosystems also produce costs. For example, food production can
1 This section summarizes the presentation of Scott M. Swinton.
2 Called for by the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2000, the MA assessed the consequences of ecosystem change for human well-being and the scientific basis for action needed to enhance the conservation and sustainable use of those systems and their contribution to human well-being. Results of the assessment were published in a series of reports in 2005. The MA defined four basic types of ecosystem services: provisioning (i.e., provision of food, fiber, fuel), regulating (i.e., regulation of climate, water, and habitat), supporting (i.e., support of other ecosystem services through soil formation, nutrient cycling, primary productivity, etc.), and cultural (i.e., aesthetic, recreation, scientific knowledge, and other cultural services). For more information, visit http://www.maweb.org/en/Index.aspx.