Economy of scale

Published 5:10pm Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nowadays, the only way for an egg producer to make big money is to expand to the point where the eggs are cheaper to produce and thus lure buyers with a cheaper per unit price, under the premise that buyers will purchase more eggs. Why not buy 50 eggs from the Texas hatchery when it costs less than 10 local hatchery eggs? After watching all our turkey chicks die, I think we’d choose the 10 over the 50.
I have always thought of this ‘economy of scale’ issue in terms of the unnecessary waste it produces. When you go to Staples or any other big box store to buy 25 envelopes you must buy 500 envelopes because that’s the way they are packaged;  it is a ‘bargain’ because the per unit price is so much cheaper. After a year or two the glue on the envelopes stick them all together, so all but 50 of the envelopes go in the recycle bin. It’s a waste but it’s no big deal. The envelopes were cheap enough in the first place.
But what about all those dead baby chicks. That’s a different ball game.
Why do we clear cut our mountainsides? It’s because by doing so the per unit price is cheaper. It means that our paper or lumber is cheaper at  the huge and convenient lumber store. There is no profit in single tree harvesting unless the single tree is huge and of great value for it’s wood, and that’s not the wood that we consume in great quantities for our daily needs. A compromise is local harvesting of small patches of woodland, to be sold locally. The unit cost may be more, but the cost to the environment would be less.
To change our buying habits will require more time and trouble on our part. It was more trouble to go out to Green Creek to buy eight chicks rather than order 50 chicks on line and have them delivered to the Saluda Post office. Large corporations have made it easy to go to big box stores where we can buy a lot of what we really do not want, but it is still easier than finding a local source. An added perk is that if we buy at Walmart or any store whose headquarters are someplace far removed from here, we don’t have to make the connection between the ream of paper we purchased and the clear-cut down the road.
Those baby chicks made the connection for me. What we need may not be what the big distributors have for sale, in spite of a lower per unit price. It is up to us to determine our real needs and buy accordingly, regardless of what someone on the outside tells us we need.

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