Re: An anthropological...

Dave Long (
Tue, 17 Aug 1999 20:48:59 -0700

> The result is that Japanese food-processing industries are not exposed
> to domestic competition, they're all local monopolies, they're not
> exposed to foreign competition, and they don't learn the best methods in
> the international trade for producing food. And the result is that, in
> Japan, Japanese beef costs $200 a pound.

Again, there's a quality issue here. As I understood it, $200/lb
Japanese beef came from specially-bred Japanese cattle which are
fattened on sake and beer and given massages[1] to ensure they are fat
and happy. Not exactly aiming for the lowest cost producer niche.

There's a spectrum between feeding, eating, and dining, and
Diamond's examples indicate that Americans (as a homogenized market)
are most profitably served[3] at the feeding end. As a value judgement,
I'm willing to pay the extra rent to live someplace where farmers'
markets and yuppie food stores give one the option of eating, instead.


[1] According to <>, the
Japanese may very well have learned some better methods in
international trade: they have the Wagyu cattle raised in
California, and then shipped back to Japan. It turns out the
genotype works even when the environment doesn't include sake and

This should work doubly well, because in California very few people
bother running cattle to actually profit on the beef. One tries
to keep the operation ticking over[2] (avoid those taxes, don't you
know) while waiting for suburbia to crawl close enough to the ranch.

When it arrives, you sell the hilly parts for million dollar spec
homes, and sell the flat parts for burbclaves. If you have a sense
of irony, try to arrange the strip malls and burbclaves so they
match the old pattern of feedstores and pens. Do remember to change
the names: "Owenshire" will go over much better than "Feedlot 047".

If suburbia doesn't arrive fast enough, try to find a doctor or
lawyer or internet entrepreneur, someone who needs current expenses
(taxes, again), and convince them that even if everyone else along
101 is putting in grapes, they'll do much better putting in a
vineyard on the land than you ever will running cattle.

So, in this sense, beef should be cheap in the states for the same
reason liquid nitrogen is: it's merely an industrial byproduct.

[2] You generally want to generate some income from your operation
to cover taxes on the property. If you're of old Hawaiian
missionary stock (those who came to do good and did awfully well)
you'll benefit from some convenient laws that state that you don't
have to pay assessed property taxes when they're greater than your

[3] Does anyone else care if Diamond's efficiency numbers were
measured at the producer, or if they include processing and
distribution? My impression is that those steps account for most of
the energy cost (and, as one of Rohit's earlier threads pointed out,
probably dollar cost) of foodstuffs in the states.