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Wow beans really are expensive here.

 
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I had always assumed, probably from constantly being told it that beans are a cheaper source of protein than meat, but I went to write a post elsewhere with some numbers and I realised no, they are not always and in some cases not even close to cheaper, not here, or at least not tinned pulses, and not dried ones either if you compare to chicken. I'm not sure it surprised me but it wasn't what I expected.

Comparative prices per kg from the same shop (Co-op which owns about 4 different branded shops here)

chickpeas
Tinned  37-
dried 26-    ($1.8/lb)

Black beans
Tinned  58-  ($4.1/lb)
Dried 40-

Butter beans
Tinned 58
Dried 73-

Red kidney beans
Tinned 54-
Dried 52-

Whole fresh chickens are 25- and beef mince is 45-
All of these are standard prices not offer prices, meat does go on offer I've not seen the pulses on offer but they might be. There is no bulk buy here since they are not really eaten. You can get the beans slightly cheaper at the local ethnic stores about 40- but you can also get the meat cheaper so swings and roundabouts there
So when I add a tin of beans to stretch the meat, I would financially be better off just adding more meat! Of course if I remembered the day before I might break even what with fuel for the cooking factored in as well.
Well I'm glad the local chicken slaughter place is having a warehouse sale on the 23rd, whole chickens at 15-/kg ($1.08/lb) and actual plain wings! so exciting to be able to get them.
 
pollinator
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And then there is the issue that beans aren't just protein, they are mostly carbs.
 
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for what it’s worth, after cooking, dry beans weigh a lot more.
a pound of dry black beans weighs 2.3 lbs cooked
kidneys, 2.4lbs
chickpeas 3.25
 
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Some countries have national food reserves and during last year's uncertainty, they bought up a lot of the pulses and oil crops.  This year's harvest isn't looking so good due to unpleasant weather.  Prices of staple foods are about to go up.  
 
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Stacy Witscher wrote:And then there is the issue that beans aren't just protein, they are mostly carbs.

With the price of wheat about to increase due to the damage to crops on the prairies, we may need those carbs.

Being borderline hypoglycemic, I need a balance of carbs, protein and fat with everything I eat (my son can eat carbs at one meal, and protein at a different meal and not notice.) So long as foods contain a complex carb, some fat and a fairly complete protein - such as turning those beans into a bean dip with tahini - they're a good lunch option.

Beans/peas are helpful to the soil to grow, also, but it's amazing how many plants you need to make a meaningful dent in your food budget for a year. As someone who grew up buying everything from the grocery store, I don't have a good mental image of how many plants I need to make that dent.  Also as someone into permaculture, I feel like I should be mostly growing perennials, and beans/peas don't qualify. But better me growing them responsibly than industrial agriculture doing so... sigh... I need more and better fencing. I lost my entire Scarlet Runner crop this year to bunnies chewing the plants off at the base. Two years ago in that spot I had no problem. I've got more bush beans planted, but it's late in the season for that variety and the weather's turned - wish them luck!

I agree with the comment that comparing the price/kg of cooked vs uncooked pulses needs to take into account the added water - water is cheap here at least, even if it's sometimes in short supply.
 
Stacy Witscher
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Being diabetic, I also need a balance with every meal, but I never struggle with getting enough carbs. I highly struggle with getting enough protein so beans aren't a great option for me.

This year, I'm harvesting a lot of acorns to play around with. I've frozen some, and I've dried some. We will see what I like and how I like it. That should provide me with plenty of carbs.
 
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Did I read the numbers right that Denmark is a net exporter of many common meat products?  I'm always curious about price supports for one commodity over another and how those decisions are made within the different countries.  Given the general notion that livestock production (where expansive grazing is not available) can be a relatively expensive way to generate dietary protein, I wonder if there are a lack of price supports for the legumes you noted and possibly some considerable supports undergirding the livestock industry there.  Don't know......just seems strange that the meat is so inexpensive relative to the beans, but other factors may be at play here.
 
Skandi Rogers
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All beans are imported which undoubtedly adds to the price, and they are not commonly eaten which also increases the price. We don't have the climate to grow beans, we can grow dried peas and there are some moves to grow lentils, but they are all specialty "local" organic ++ items that you need a mortgage to buy. I assumed that the dry beans would double in weight when I looked at the pricing, but it still doesn't bring them under the meat price except for chickpeas. to give a little idea on how much staple foods cost;

Flour plain 2kg     20-  ($1.44/lb)      
Eggs Barn 15         24-  ($1.6)
Carrots 2kg           15-   (1.05/lb)
 
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I think if one has concerns about animal welfare and what's in what you eat, the cheap chickens may not be such a good buy, unless you know they're produced and killed humanely and won't contain some of the additives still permitted in feeds for factory farmed chickens. I imagine the price comparisons for organic chicken and organic beans might favour the beans!
 
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Jane beat me to it opening the door to mention that not all meats and beans are equal. I believe that what is important will vary for each person, and comparing prices may vary not only on what each of us chooses to purchase and eat, but also the region in where we live, such as Skandi noted above living in Denmark where the climate isn't conducive to growing beans and they are imported.

I love myself and care about the health and wellbeing of my body. It wasn't always this way as my food choices fifteen and twenty years ago were rather sad (standard American diet) commonly consisting of convenient processed foods and cheap feedlot meats. Back then I didn't know, I was ignorant of the American food system and I didn't have the awareness about the industrial food complex that I do today. Now I choose organic and regional whenever possible. Sure it costs more, but my health, wellbeing and all around feeling good through diet is worth more to me than say designer clothes or a fancy truck.

I currently don't have good value comparisons to share, but I can share examples of what my wife and I pay for some foods here in Tennessee. For example, we pay $7.50lb for pastured ground beef (Belted Galloway breed to be precise) that comes from a regional farm here in Tennessee, where the animals are born on and live their entire lives on one farm eating forage and hay, and have one unpleasant day, the last day, when they take a <2 hour ride to the processor. We also purchase a few steaks and other cuts and most are in the teens price per pound. We just started raising our own beef cattle on our farm, but it will be a few more years before we have one to take to a processor.

We used to purchase whole broilers from the same farm at $5/lb which was roughly $30 per chicken. This year we raised our own broilers. We purchased 16 big red broilers from Murray McMurray hatchery @$3.24 each, or $51.84 for the birds, plus maybe $25 for shipping (estimate average as we also had 16 replacement layers in the order). So $76.24 for sixteen broiler chicks, and I estimate they ate 500lbs of non-gmo broiler feed over the course of twelve weeks which costs $185. Two broiler chicks died around their second week. We ended up with fourteen broilers, averaging 5 pounds dressed or 70 pounds total, which works out to be approximately $261in cost or $3.72 per pound for homegrown chicken.

Kroger nearby has cans of organic beans, most varieties are $0.99 per can. We do buy organic dried beans as well, but I'm unsure of what we paid for them. I'd reckon we have paid several and perhaps many dollars per pound for some. One year Costco has 5lb bags of organic lentils for $12 or something near there as I can't remember, but they certainly weren't $20. I grew some southern Cowpeas in the garden this year which I purchased from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange. One packet was $2.50, the other $2.75. I planted two four foot rows with a trellis, and we yielded a half gallon mason jar dried of each variety.

I can certainly see how clean organic beans can be close to or near equal to in cost of some clean farm raised meats, perhaps even higher in cost, again depending on the region I think and what the going rate currently is at say ones local farmers market or on farm sales.

 
Skandi Rogers
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Jane Mulberry wrote:I think if one has concerns about animal welfare and what's in what you eat, the cheap chickens may not be such a good buy, unless you know they're produced and killed humanely and won't contain some of the additives still permitted in feeds for factory farmed chickens. I imagine the price comparisons for organic chicken and organic beans might favour the beans!



The only pulse I can find for sale from Denmark is lentils. We have stricter controls on feed additives, I'm horrified that people in the US routinely use medicated feed, it's not legal here at all. and slaughterhouses all follow the same rules.

Danish grown lentils  (dry) $8 per 200g so $18 per lb
supermarket organic chicken $7.47 per lb
Local beef from FB you can visit the cows not organic but is grass fed $7.27 lb
Dried imported organic beans seem to be about the same price as conventional so they are cheaper, but since I do not buy organic meat.. it's still more expensive for me to add beans than for me to add more meat.

I suspect it's all about scale Danes don't eat beans so beans are expensive luxuries, sometimes it's a tax thing, up until 2 years ago nuts had an extra tax on them, that has since been scrapped but nuts are still ridiculously expensive.

When I worked the maths out last time homegrown pork costs the same as the cheap supermarket pork per kg. chicken is more expensive and beef was to hard to work out as so much depends on the original purchase price of the animal.
 
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I find it useful to compare the cost allowing for the different amounts of protein in the food.

Here's a chart I made last year to help me decide which sources are best value. I have to restrict my carbohydrate intake so there's quite an emphasis on low-carb protein sources but I included some peas and beans too. The chart is arranged in order of the cheapest per 100g protein.

protein cost per 100g

yellow beans - €1.40 per kilo,      60c per 100g protein
beef heart           -   €2 per kilo,     70c per 100g protein
beef protein isolate - 22c per dose,  74c per 100g protein.
chicken leg  -   €1.50 per kilo,      80 c per 100g protein
soy beans       -  €3.33 per liko,  83 c per 100g protein
pea protein     - 20c per dose,      84c per 100g protein
soy protein       - 24c per serving, 88c per 100g protein
milk protein      - 24c per serving, 88c per 100g protein
chicken liver  -   €1.50 per kilo ,    88 c per 100g protein
split green peas - €2.50 per kilo, €1.09 per 100g protein
split red lentils - €2.79 per kilo, €1.15 per 100g protein
sardines          - €2.39 per kilo,   €1.26 per 100g protein
flavoured whey - 33c per dose, €1.36 per 100g protein
whey powder  - 34c per dose,   €1.44 per 100g protein
pork               - €4.00 per kilo,   €2.00 per 100g protein
cheese           - €5.00 per kilo,   €2.08 per 100g protein
linseed           - €4.00 per kilo,   €2.10 per 100g protein
whole milk      - 74 c per litre,   €2.24 per 100g protein
frozen fish     -  €4.00 per kilo,   €2.22 per 100g protein
eggs              - €1.89 per dozen, €2.25 per 100g protein
soy milk          - 85 c per litre,    €2.42 per 100g protein
chourico         - €4.89 per kilo,   €2.71 per 100g protein
frozen peas     - €1.69 per kilo,   €2.84 per 100g protein
chia                 - €6.60 per kilo,   €3.30 per 100g protein
tuna                   - 65 c per tin,   €3.67 per 100g protein

I'm eating a lot of beef heart (known in this family as bee-fart, I just checked in case I called it that in the chart...) this autumn, and not much tuna! Some things, like linseed (flax-seed) and chia I eat for the fibre, and mostly I don't eat beans because I can't cope with the carbs.
 
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I dont know bout anyone else but I'd rather have a good home made black bean and veggie burrito than any kind of meat burrito. protein, carb, vitamins, minerals. yeah
but maybe that's just me.
 
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Is the climate in Denmark really that different from some German regions? You surely have milder winters.

In Germany, only 2% of all crops are pulses. The Bavarian Department for Environment is currently supporting a campaign to grow more regional pulses.
Crops that will grow are broad beans, white lupine and peas.
Private growers even received started seed packages and there was a cooking even to promote the use of pulses in the kitchen.
Unfortunately this is not in my region but I think it is a cool thing.

Here is a report (in German) with some pics:
bad-kissingen.bund-naturschutz.de
 
Skandi Rogers
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We have milder winters yes, but we also have milder summers and that's what's important for getting beans to maturity.
To give a little idea on how rare beans are here, I could not find ANY dried beans in any of the three supermarkets my local town has when I was doing one of my monthly meals for the shelter. It's a poor area and very behind the times food wise.

Edited Broad beans grow fine, they are hamstrung here as they are called "Horse beans" they are trying to market them using the Swedish name instead!
 
Anita Martin
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Wow, hard to believe!

Here I get dried pulses in any supermarket. This very common and cheap product line has four bean varieties:
https://www.muellers-muehle.de/de/produkte/produktgruppe/bohnen

and six different lentils:
https://www.muellers-muehle.de/de/produkte/produktgruppe/linsen

...although you probably don't get all of them in a smallish supermarket.

Normally you also get some organic varieties and some in the "ethnic food" section, like chickpeas.

This is a good reminder to put some pulses to soak!
 
Skandi Rogers
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I can get all sorts of dried beans in the next town along which is larger and got a lot of refugees (15% of it's population at one point) but you have to go into their shops and many people here won't for one reason or another. Personally I prefer to shop there as it IS a local business so profits go back into the area rather than vanishing to a shareholder somewhere and they are all very friendly and welcoming.
 
Stacy Witscher
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For me, a burrito is all about the fats, cheese, guacamole and sour cream. I put chicken in for protein and the veggies and tortilla are the carbs. Beans or rice would put me way over my carb limit but we all have different dietary needs and that's okay.

Burra - I love your list. My problem is getting myself to eat much of it.
 
John Weiland
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Skandi Rogers wrote:...... Personally I prefer to shop there as it IS a local business so profits go back into the area rather than vanishing to a shareholder somewhere and they are all very friendly and welcoming.



Yes, even here in the US where I don't feel limited in the *availability* of the different legumes and other food stuffs, the different ethnic food markets provide different sources and varieties which is a nice choice to have versus larger retailers.

Here's an interesting website that is trying to 're-invigorate' pulse production in Denmark.....their claim is that pulses in the past were an important component of Danish diet, but that changed with the introduction of potatoes and increasing reliance on meat products:   https://stateofgreen.com/en/partners/coop-crowdfunding/solutions/pure-dansk-legumes-cultivated-in-denmark/

 
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John Weiland wrote:

Here's an interesting website that is trying to 're-invigorate' pulse production in Denmark.....their claim is that pulses in the past were an important component of Danish diet, but that changed with the introduction of potatoes and increasing reliance on meat products:   https://stateofgreen.com/en/partners/coop-crowdfunding/solutions/pure-dansk-legumes-cultivated-in-denmark/


What an interesting initiative, thanks for sharing!
 
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Skandi Rogers wrote:I had always assumed, probably from constantly being told it that beans are a cheaper source of protein than meat, but I went to write a post elsewhere with some numbers and I realised no, they are not always and in some cases not even close to cheaper, not here, or at least...



Great topic! I've thought a lot about this one.

[n.b. Below has been revised per suggestion of Stacy Witscher who suggested that my numbers were off. Thank you Stacy!]

Quick answer: for me looks like $2/day for beans vs. $2.3/day for chicken. My logic is below.

An article I found from Harvard University says that, to get your daily protein requirement, "you multiply your weight in pounds times .36". I weigh 150 lbs., so I need 54 grams of protein per day.

According to this article, 1 cup of cooked chicken weighs between 2 ounces and 5 ounces - I'm going to cut it up relatively small and say 4 ounces, which is precisely 1/4 lb.

The Harvard article says that 3 ounces of chicken contains about 19 grams of protein. By that measure, 4 ounces would contain 25 grams of protein. In other words, I would need to eat a 2.3 cups of chicken to make my goal of 54 grams per day.

The Harvard article also says that 1/2 cup of cooked beans contains 8 grams of protein. That's 16 grams per cup or 3.4 cups to hit my 54 gram goal.

Very, very rough numbers...

If you soak and cook your own beans, you get about 5 cups of beans per pound. Around here, organic beans cost about $3/lb. That's about 60 cents per cup or $2/day for my 54 gram goal.

Cheap, organic chicken is $3/lb. of which about 1/3 is bone and skin/fat - so let's say $4/lb. or $.25/ounce. We could make a case for chicken fat + bone meal vs. nitrogen fixation, etc. but that's another matter entirely. Leaving aside those details, 2.3 cups of chicken weighs 9.2 ounces. 9.2 * $.25 = $2.3 per day for my 54 gram goal.

So, here in New England, the protein in chicken is a little more expensive than the protein in beans, but maybe not enough to justify switching up your diet for economy alone.

Thanks for the food for thought! ;)
 
Stacy Witscher
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Karl - I'm confused are you talking about a whole day or a meal? Because 2/3 cup of chicken provides about 16 grams of protein, that is very low for a day. My current goal is about 64 grams a day because I just can't get the 100 grams that I was shooting for.
 
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Karl Treen wrote:

That said, my bet is the environmental cost of raising chicken vs. raising beans would come out in favor of the beans.

Maybe in some situations, but I'd like to muddy the water even further!

Think of the climates where beans/peas tend to be a significant protein source vs climates where meat tends to be a significant source.

For example: My friend from India grew up vegetarian eating a lot of lentils and kidney beans. They had no fridge and meat could go bad extremely quickly, so this sort of diet has survival benefits  Vs. my dad was off the boat from England where the growing season was short and often cool and trying to dry beans that grew well there would have been a struggle. I find the same problem where I live, but I've got technology I can use to help, whereas before the 50's, there was less. During the war, they raised rabbits for meat and chickens for eggs and were desperate for that little extra protein.

However, now we've got Industrial Ag muddying the water further. My dad raised those chickens pretty much by dumpster diving for whatever scraps he could find. Now we're using a fair bit of what could easily be people food (some places allow animals to be fed stuff that's "B grade" or less and possibly with higher levels of contaminants in it than would be considered acceptable for humans, to animals) to feed many animals.  B grade often isn't a problem - if I find those yucky grey aphids on my kale, I feed it to the chickens anyway and they don't seem to object - different taste buds? I predict that the times will be changing as I believe Industrial Ag is going to fail - yeah permaculture!
 
Karl Treen
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Stacy Witscher wrote:Karl - I'm confused are you talking about a whole day or a meal? Because 2/3 cup of chicken provides about 16 grams of protein, that is very low for a day. My current goal is about 64 grams a day because I just can't get the 100 grams that I was shooting for.



Hm... I think you're right. My numbers were a bit off. Very rough, indeed!

I have revised and given you credit for the revision. We still have a bit of a discrepancy about grams of protein per cup of chicken, but I quoted my sources and explained why I used certain numbers. Cubed chicken is not a precise way to measure, but I made my explanation a bit more clear, so people can follow the logic if they so choose.

Thank you!

 
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Jay Angler wrote:Karl Treen wrote:

That said, my bet is the environmental cost of raising chicken vs. raising beans would come out in favor of the beans.

Maybe in some situations, but I'd like to muddy the water even further!

Think of the climates where beans/peas tend to be a significant protein source vs climates where meat tends to be a significant source.

For example: My friend from India grew up vegetarian eating a lot of lentils and kidney beans. They had no fridge and meat could go bad extremely quickly, so this sort of diet has survival benefits  Vs. my dad was off the boat from England where the growing season was short and often cool and trying to dry beans that grew well there would have been a struggle. I find the same problem where I live, but I've got technology I can use to help, whereas before the 50's, there was less. During the war, they raised rabbits for meat and chickens for eggs and were desperate for that little extra protein.

However, now we've got Industrial Ag muddying the water further. My dad raised those chickens pretty much by dumpster diving for whatever scraps he could find. Now we're using a fair bit of what could easily be people food (some places allow animals to be fed stuff that's "B grade" or less and possibly with higher levels of contaminants in it than would be considered acceptable for humans, to animals) to feed many animals.  B grade often isn't a problem - if I find those yucky grey aphids on my kale, I feed it to the chickens anyway and they don't seem to object - different taste buds? I predict that the times will be changing as I believe Industrial Ag is going to fail - yeah permaculture!



Well said! If you can do things differently, you can often swing the needle in the favor of one vs. the other. If your site is truly organized around permaculture principles, with chickens eating your scraps, you can certainly make a big dent in the cost of the chicken.

This whole discussion is a false dichotomy when you begin to really implement Permaculture. Chickens can't easily grow 20 feet up a wall and beans can't easily process food scraps. The chickens produce valuable compost for your plants; the beans fix nitrogen and may fill special niches that other plants don't fill. The fat and bones of chickens have value for soup stock, etc., etc.

Academic discussions like this are fun as puzzles but they don't hold up outside of a vacuum. :)
 
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While I used to eat plenty of chicken via frozen chicken breasts, these days I'm vegetarian with the occasional pizza with cheese. Most days I'll have a bowl of steel-cut oats and red lentils (similar flavor, texture, and cook time) with frozen berries and ground flax seed for breakfast; kidney bean, black bean, peas, brussel sprouts, etc with some pasta sauce "chili"; and some fruit, nuts, maybe some hummus.

I get the oats, lentils, and beans all dry as they are way less per pound and there's less trash that way. When quarantines caused a rush on staple food, I saw lentils go from $1.50/pound up to $5 so I started buying 25# bags for around $45. Oats were about $1.20 and beans were under $2/pound. Since it all more than doubles in volume and weight, the price per pound has stayed under $1/pound overall. The frozen berries (which flavor the oats/lentils) averages $4/pound.

Being a tall/large person, I aim for at least 100g of protein a day. A serving of oats/lentils for me is half a cup each dry, eyeballed 3/4 cup berries, and 2Tbsp of ground flax. Once cooked it's a nice filling bowl. It works out to 30-35g protein and ~700 calories. My chili uses about 3 cups of dry beans soaked for a day to get more like 8-9 cups, and that goes into 4 servings of chili along with peas, carrots, and other veggies. It also averages in the 30-35g of protein and ~500 calories per serving range. Each meal is $1-2 total the last time I checked. I then fill in with various options for the other half of my calories for the day and is very flexible. I used to regularly combine Greek yogurt with chocolate flavored pea protein powder which was a ton of protein, like 80g for maybe 600 calories, when weight training and following a higher protein diet.

Obviously just because my prices for beans is X doesn't make it relevant to anyone else, but thought I'd share. Perhaps an online source can be found if you have the room to purchase in bulk? I normally shop at a store that has bulk bins, so I can refill bags I already have.
 
Jane Mulberry
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A really interesting discussion!
Climate and regional differences are part of the price variations. I wonder if a bigger part is economics and politics - animal foods being seen as high status products while pulse proteins are peasant foods. So as a country becomes weathier, meats and chicken are seen as the preferred foods for those who can get them. Traditionally, going back say to medieval times, the vast majority of people even in northern Europe ate primarily plant proteins and fish, with meat as an occasional luxury.
As standards of living increased and intensive animal farming lowered meat prices, foods that once only the wealthy could eat regularly were within the reach of ordinary people. Most countries want to appear wealthy and be seen to provide people with a high standard of living, so meat production and the environmental impacts of meat production are highly subsidised in the US, UK and many other countries. Plant food production tend to be subsidised at a much lower rate, leading to articificially low meat prices in comparision.
Most peoples' buying choices are affected by what they've been brought up to consider the "best" forms of protein foods to eat, and by the price in the supermarket when they go to buy food. It would be interesting to look at the compararative subsidies in Denmark and see how those affect the prices.
The scenario will work of completely differently when people are raising their own protein, of course. No subsidies, so meat proteins are likely to be more expensive to raise on a small scale. OTOH, there's also no factory farming, less environmental impact, and hopefully far better lives for the animals.
My personal opinion is that the real price of eating meat is often far higher than the label on the supermarket shelf.

 
Skandi Rogers
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For very small scale producers like me I can get subsidies for grains/pulses via the land, but I cannot get anything for meat.  there may well be subs for pork it's a huge industry here, but raising it at home at a home scale on commercial feed breaks even, even after paying the slaughter house which is half the cost. so with economies of scale they can make money at the low prices even without subs. for my parents in law that run an organic farm and do grow a few hectares of lentils and soup peas they have to sell them at about $20 per pound or they don't make any money at all. the yield is very low and the processing cost is very high.
 
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