tification for public policy. People like myself are a little less willing to use that justification on the average population.”
Lusk’s response triggered some comments about choice and how behavior in the real world differs from behavior in economic models. For example, Aaron Wernham expressed concern that the policy environment might drive choice as much as the market does. Also, earlier during the workshop, there had been a question about whether lack of choice in food deserts (i.e., areas without access to food) can be factored into a model based on externalities and responding remarks about how lack of access to food is a social issue, not a market issue, and therefore cannot be analyzed within the context of externalities. (See the summary of James Hammitt’s presentation on public health effects in Chapter 3 for more thoughts on the challenge of analyzing effects impacted by “real-world” behavior.)
The importance of trade-offs was a major overarching theme of the workshop discussion, from keynote speaker Katherine Smith’s admonition that “everything is relative” onward. Smith cautioned that a cost is only a cost relative to something else. Most subsequent discussion of trade-offs revolved around those associated with large- versus small-scale production. An audience member remarked that agriculture in the United States has undergone a major transformation over the past century from many small independent producers to a small number of large, sometimes global, corporations controlling sectors of the food system. At the same time, according to Michael Doyle, there has also been a recent drive in the United States and across Europe toward a small-scale way of farming food animals. These trends raise the questions: What are the costs and benefits of large- versus small-scale animal production? What are the implications for food safety, water and air quality, and manure management? How are local communities impacted? What are the costs and benefits to the farmers themselves?
In some experts’ opinion, arguably one of the greatest benefits of large-scale production is its economy of scale, with large-scale production being more efficient and more cost-efficient. However, one audience member remarked that the economy of scale afforded by large-scale production may shift at a certain “tipping point,” beyond which further production actually creates greater costs than benefits. For example, there may be a point at which raising too many pigs turns manure from a commodity into
1 A trade-off is defined here as an exchange of one effect for another when a different decision, policy, or practice is implemented.