Monday, August 20, 2012

Price Versus Cost of Meat

The Real Price of Meat

People advocating non-vegetarian food often talk about the "Low Cost High Nutritional Value" of meat. In this reference, a story comes to the mind. The original story in Hindi was shared on the Hindi edition of this blog by Mr. Hansaraj Sugya.

King Shrenik, the emperor of the Magadh state in central India, once asked his courtiers in the royal assembly, "What could be the most cost efficient approach for solving the severe problem of food supply before the nation?"

The cabinet and the courtiers started pondering the issue. They realized that the grains like rice, wheat etc are produced after a lot of hard work, time and labour, and need a suitable climate too. Famines, Droughts, Floods, all interfere in the process of cultivation. Hence, it is not possible to reduce the cost associated with the production of food grains.

An officer who was particularly fond of hunting thought that, meat is the only food item, which can be easily procured without much work involved. He smilingly suggested, " Oh noble King ! The cheapest food item is undoubtedly meat, It has a low cost of production, and is quite nutritive." Almost everyone supported his proposal, but the prime minister Abhay Kumar kept silent.

The king asked him "Why are you silent? What do you think about this issue?"

The prime minister replied "The statement that meat is the cheapest, is an absolute falsehood. I will put up my thoughts before you all tomorrow."

The assembly was adjourned for the day.

At night-fall, Abhay Kumar knocked at the door of the Officer who had put up the proposal. Though the officer was very nervous to see the prime minister at his doorstep at such an hour, he welcomed him respectfully inside, and inquired about the purpose of the unexpected visit.

The prime minister politely replied, " The noble king Shrenik was taken ill this evening. The "raaj-vaidya" (The royal doctor) has prescribed a cure. He has said that, if king Shrenik gets 20 grams of meat of the noble man's heart, his life can be saved. I know that you are a valued and faithful officer of the noble king. You can surely lay your life to save him. Therefore, I have come here to take 20 grams of your heart's flesh for the king. I will compensate you well for it - I will even pay 1,00,000 Gold Coins to you as a token of gratitude.

The officer was shocked. He started thinking, what use will be this wealth when I myself am dead? He begged the prime minister to excuse him and get the meat from elsewhere. He even handed over 1,00,000 gold coins from his personal treasure to help procure the flesh from someone else.

Taking this, Abhay Kumar went to the next officer's home, but the same story was repeated. He visited all officers' homes one by one, but no one was agreeable to oblige. Everyone gave some wealth to save his life, someone paid one hundred thousand rupees, some others two or five hundred thousands. Before dawn, the Prime minister reached his home with more than ten million gold coins.

When the king's royal assembly reconvened, the prime minister presented the assorted wealth before him.

Emperor Shrenik asked, "What are these gold coins for?"

The prime minister narrated the whole sequence of events. He said, "Just for buying 20 grams of flesh, so much wealth was parted with, but still the flesh could not be procured. The noblemen have parted with all this money to save their lives. Then how can we say that meat is cheap? Can we now understand that the "cost" of meat is at the "price" of life and is effectively "priceless"?

Life is priceless, not cheap. Let us not forget that, the way we value our own life, similarly the other living organisms also wish and crave to live, and we have no right to snatch their life away from them.