For many decades a major emphasis in public policy has been the assurance of food safety and security. Measurement of the economic returns to these programs is often difficult and challenging. In many cases the difficulty in obtaining data and the sheer complexity of the issues make the use of traditional econometric and programming approaches impractical for assessing these activities. This paper presents a summary of an innovative method for measuring benefits and costs of hard-to-assess programs and activities, such as those that deal with food safety, meat inspection and quality assurance. The building block approach described here for measuring benefits and costs was developed as an alternative method for measuring returns to meat inspection, agricultural grading, agricultural research and seed and seed potato quality assurance.