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Original video: https://soundcloud.com/tomorrowpodcast/episode-39-john-gruber-crashes-his-tesla-into-your-heart
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Great show Russ, not a long time listener but it’s great to find a blog unequivocally pushing the benefits of free markets and competition. I just want to comment on the pig question. I live in Australia and have an under grad degree in economics and finance and work as an accountant of a pig farming and processing business, the largest one in Western Australia, so I can bring some applied knowledge to this question.
We spend approx $25 m per annum on feeding our pigs before we bring them in for slaughter at our abattoir and this sort of question comes up every now and then here in daily working life. In Australia we feed pigs usually a diet of wheat and other related grains but that makes for little difference in the concept. The treasury yield or some savings rate absolutely has no input at all into the decision making process. However if by treasury yield , you mean some sort of proxy for opportunity cost then the answer is closer to the mark.
Pig farming is actually a great application of the theory you learn at under grad about producing until your marginal cost equals your marginal revenue. Believe it or not many agricultural courses at unis around the world teach pig economics because the discipline in terms of micro economics is quite instructive. Our farm manager from Peru proudly says he studied pig economics at uni. MR= MC however
plays out in effect at an individual pig level for a farm and the decision to slaughter. The primary cost is feed by a mile followed by medication and then general farm overhead.
You grow out an animal to maximise revenue, and the growth rates of the animal means that the revenue from the animal are increasing through time just as the costs are , as they consuming more feed. Both of these are functions of the weight of the animal multiplied x wholesale value at market for revenue and the cost of feed that creates the weight increase for marginal cost.
As a producer our decision becomes well, if I leave the pig on the farm another week , it will grow x kilos, be worth $x more and if my cost to have feed and medicated him for another week is $y dollars and if x is greater than y , then it makes sense to continue the growout. Lol at no point are we reaching for the financial press to look up treasury yields.
Therefore if the price of our major input being feed rises, this will change the point in time at which these two curves intersect and in theory that would mean you might send an animal to slaughter earlier.
However in Australia the market place has little requirement for overly heavy or fatter pigs ( we normally process an animal to give carcasses weight of approx 65-70 kgs) and prefers smaller size cuts, so we never reach a point where a change in feed costs can change our behaviour to process an animal earlier. Invariably at the point we send to market our MR still remains well above MC For the individual pig , but if we continued to grow out there would simply be no demand at all for the animal. So in the case of Australia the inference supply would increase in the short run is highly unlikely.
America from my knowledge processes much heavier carcasses, approx 80-90 kgs I understand ( maybe a producer over there can comment). As you can imagine this makes usa producers much more cost competitive because they are more efficiently maximising production up to the point mr = mc. By time of slaughter they have a much heavier animal and hence kgs to amortise all the cost of production across.
At the margin though again I seriously doubt the increase in feed input would push their supply curve outward. The increase in feed would have to be very significant to quickly push their marginal costs past their marginal revenue particularly when you consider that not only is the cost of the animal rising significantly in latter life due to its growth but also its revenue function.
An animals growth function is more accurately described by a log function then a linear function , so you would need to assess that effect on both marginal revenue and marginal cost given the logarithmic function of animal growth to know if this were possibly true that MC has jumped ahead of MR requiring a rational producer to now slaughter the animal.
Howeverjust like here in Australia , you then need to reference back to the demand side of the equation to see if this equation even has any bearing on the analysis to kill . It may well be that even with a feed price rise ,MR may remain above MC , hence the feed price rise becomes an irrelevancy in the short term and all the happens is the producer makes less profit per pig. As we know this then may cause the supplier to cut production in the longer run……. which is not in dispute.
The other issue that makes a supply curve move outwards in the short run implausible in any material sense of the word is that there is at any point in time only so many pigs on the ground in various stages of grow out.
Ok, suppose marginal cost is now above marginal revenue earlier and hence every producer decides to kill there animals somewhat earlier. It is likely this might mean an animal is killed a week or two earlier than normal and this would apply to every age cohort going forward.
But so what……., ordinarily animals are sent to the abattoir for kill in an orderly progression, you may have one week where kills jump with the change to a shorter life cycle but then the flow to market per week would normalise back to what it was .
Technically this very temporary one week movement out of the supply curve and then back again ,is
a short run move of the supply curve outwards but because it would snap back equally quickly as the flow to market would normalise I seriously doubt this would move the market clearing price , or if it did it would be by a very small amount and for a small period . In my view again I doubt you would see any material change in price in the short run.
Anyway….. I look forward to remaining an interested listener……. again great to know there are resources like this that are not obsessed with Keynesian economics and big government is the answer to all economic issues.
[minor formatting edits made to improve spacing—Econlib Ed.]
In episode two of season two Ryan introduces us to Gaussian processes, we take a listener question on K-means. Plus, we talk with Ilya Sutskever the director of research for OpenAI. (For more from Ilya, you can listen to our season one interview with him.)
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