Meat the Next Sin Tax

If your holiday meals include filet mignon, rack of lamb, roast pork, or even charcuterie, you might want to reach for a second helping while you can still afford it. That’s because Oxford University researchers are proposing a tax on meat.  Their goal is to “save you” from cancer, heart disease, obesity, and other ailments that are said to come from eating red or processed meat.  Your tax dollars would be used to provide health care for those who over-indulge.

With all sincerity, the researchers assert that theirs is a “market-based approach” because the tax on meat is linked to “health impacts.”

Like climate change, I’m not sure if the science of low-meat diets is truly settled. On one side is the World Health Organization, which has labeled red meat – beef, lamb, and pork — as “probably carcinogenic” and processed meat — hot dogs, ham, and sausages — as “carcinogenic.”

Other scientists believe that the alternative, a high-carb diet heavy in bread, rice, and pasta, is a key factor in obesity and leads to heart disease — the leading cause of death in developing countries.

To sort it all out, Medical News Today reported on a study that pitted the potential benefits of a low-carb diet (heavy on meat) against those of a low-fat one (heavy on carbs). The scientists asked which type of diet would be best for shedding excess weight. Their conclusion? It’s hard to tell.

While the likelihood of death by red meat or death by pasta may be debated, the economic outcome of taxing meat is irrefutable.  A tax on meat is highly regressive and hurts those who can least afford it.  Moreover, ordering a filet from Morton’s or a hot dog from Dodger Stadium would mean double taxation for red meat fans.

Is a meat tax farfetched? It’s not difficult to foresee the day when a prominent vegan politician champions a meat tax says the editor of Headline Health.  “Al Gore and Senator Cory Booker…. are non-meat eaters who like taxes.”

Earlier this year, the CDC reported that for the first time in 50 years, the life expectancy of Americans fell for two years in a row.  Oxford researchers believe that they can promote longer and healthier lives by taxing meat.  But what’s really at issue here? In life’s big questions, it always helps to turn to the poet:

Tax his pork chop, tax his steak,

Tax his meaty lasagna bake.

Tax his burger, tax his ham,

Tax his favorite rack of lamb.


Put these words upon his tomb,

“Taxes drove me to my doom!”

And when he’s gone, he still can’t relax,

There will still be the inheritance tax.


From The Tax Poem
(with some meddling and editing by me)

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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