As Meat Prices Continue To Rise, Biden Administration Takes Aim At Big Chicken

Unsurprisingly, the meat industry has pushed back against the White House’s allegations. So have some economists, saying consolidation is not entirely to blame for higher prices. As with other industries, escalating costs in the meat business have driven up prices: Rises in feed, labor, transportation and packaging costs along with pandemic-related labor shortages have caused beef, chicken and poultry producers to pass those increases along to consumers.성인용품

“The White House is trying to distract attention in any way possible,” said Don Close, senior animal protein analyst for RaboResearch Food & Agribusiness group, which analyzes agricultural data. He said President Biden’s executive order cracking down on consolidation in the meat industry contained inaccurate or biased information about the meat industry. He adds that the largest beef packing companies haven’t changed much in 20 years.

In recent years, several meat companies have been accused of antitrust violations, from inflating prices to wage fixing, by the Justice Department. Some of the accusations predate the coronavirus pandemic. The pace has picked up this year: In May, a federal grand jury in Denver indicted Claxton Poultry Farms for participating in a nationwide conspiracy to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chicken products. In July, a federal grand jury in Denver indicted Koch Foods and four Pilgrim’s Pride executives in the same nationwide conspiracy.

Growers, restaurant chains and retailers have also sued major meat companies over anticompetitive practices like price fixing. In June, Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride agreed to pay $80 million and $75 million, respectively, to settle a class-action lawsuit. In August, Tyson and Perdue Farms agreed, without admitting wrongdoing, to pay nearly $35 million to settle a lawsuit that accused them and several other firms of conspiring to fix the prices paid to their contract growers, pushing them into debt.

“Big ag is putting a squeeze on farmers,” Biden said when signing the July executive order. “Small and family farms, first-time farmers like veterans coming home and Black and Latino and Indigenous farmers they are seeing price hikes for seed, lopsided contracts, shrinking profits and growing debt.”

The White House aims to clamp down on meat industry practices by strengthening the enforcement of an obscure 100-year-old law, enacted in 1921 in response to concerns about the clout of the “Big Five” meatpackers at the time.

That consolidation hasn’t been curbed in the ensuing century. Eighty percent of beef in America is now controlled by just four companies: JBS, Tyson, Cargill and National Beef. Nearly 70 percent of the pork business is controlled by that same number: JBS, Tyson, Smithfield and Hormel. Plus, more than half of the chicken processing is by four companies: JBS, Tyson, Perdue and Sanderson.

The White House appears especially focused on busting up consolidation in the poultry industry, experts say. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has announced two rule changes to make it easier for farmers to sue companies if they feel like they’re not getting a fair deal for their animals, and a third rule that is specific to the poultry industry. It will minimize how much processors can reward and punish growers, and pit them against each other.

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