This recent image on cracked.com claims that the Red Cross grosses USD 2.1 billion a year from selling blood. It also claims that the Red Cross is a business which sells donated blood for $400 a pint.

enter image description here

Are there any verifiable sources for this claim that the Red Cross sells such quantities of blood?

  • 14
    "You should still give...a real shortage is terrible and patients need to do it, but know what's going on." So...what I am supposed to do after seeing this? Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 16:50
  • @PaulDraper if you don't want to donate, you can sell lubbockonline.com/stories/100807/loc_100807034.shtml
    – DavePhD
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 18:48
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    I'm going to take a guess and say the person who made that image was because they wanted to get back at the Red Cross for constantly phoning them and asking them to donate (blood or money) Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 3:50
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    @DavePhD blood that is sold can't be transfused to patients in the US. The FDA requires that the blood be from a volunteer donor. As explained in the answers below, blood centers are non profit organizations. They sell blood to recoup their costs, which are substantial. Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 18:12
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    There's an old study on paying for blood donation and it ended up not giving the result they wanted. Less people donating and people lying about their health.
    – the_lotus
    Commented Apr 24, 2015 at 19:40

1 Answer 1


I assume this is referring to the American Red Cross, because that is where Cracked.com is based. Note also that describing the Red Cross as "a business" is somewhat misleading. It is a foundation.

Red Cross do sell blood to hospitals.

Yes. All the centers that supply blood for transfusions—whether they're part of the American Red Cross or not—sell their products to cover operating expenses. Local hospitals work out contracts with regional suppliers or their local Red Cross facility. [...] All blood suppliers are nonprofits, and the prices they charge follow the cost of production.

This is not a secret, or if it is, it is a badly kept one! The American Red Cross finances are published. The 2014 audited financial statements gives a peek into their operations:

Snippet from books

In the 2014 financial year, they made $1.89 billion revenue from "Products and Services: Biomedical", down slightly from $2.04 billion in 2013. [Note: The figures are in thousands of US dollars, so, for example, '1,889,790' corresponds to $1.89 billion.]

It seems the $2.1 billion figure quoted is approximately correct.

Sounds like a lot of revenue, but it is expensive to collect and distribute blood. How expensive? Look at the operating expenses:

Another snippet from books

Biomedical services cost $1.98 billion in operating costs in 2014. This was not a source of profits in that year.


Like many viral infographics, this one gives one large figure that sounds scary, but nothing to compare it to. The figure is approximately right, but put into context, it is not as disturbing, and paints the American Red Cross in a better light.

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    Good question, @George. In the text at the top of the first image are the words "(in thousands)" which means you must multiply the figures in the charts by one thousand, making it (American) billions, not millions. (I've edited to clarify.)
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 10:30
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    oh okay. Great answer. So the meme forgot to mention that Red Cross's expenses were higher than revenues, and accused the Red Cross of trading and gaining profit off people's blood, no big deal. Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 10:43
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    They charge the hospitals about the right amount to cover their costs. Meanwhile they take in $US700 million in donation each year. Does that count as breaking even or losing money hand over fist? Comparing it to a business is not a useful analogy to describe their motivations and behaviour.
    – Oddthinking
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 15:40
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    It should be noted that, as with many other aspects of medical care in the US, the costs associated with blood supply illustrated there seem to be a lot higher than in other territories. In the UK, the NHS's figures show that they 'sell' blood products to hospitals (private & NHS) at an everage of £123/unit (2013 figure) which would equate to about $185 at prevailing exchange rates. The NHS estimates that the cost to collect a unit of blood is approximately £70, with processing and handling accounting for the difference.
    – Lunatik
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 15:56
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    @MarchHo: It may not say so literally, but it implies that with all the subtlety of a jackhammer, and that (in light of this answer) is highly irresponsible, and possibly unethical (depending on your views about how much due diligence is in order in cases like that and whether or not whoever made the graphic knowingly withheld the facts to draw attention).
    – tomasz
    Commented Apr 23, 2015 at 21:56

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