The Biden administration has identified four major meat processors as being largely responsible for increased consumer prices. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese recently released a report detailing the issue of consolidation in the beef, pork, and poultry sectors. According to the report, the four large conglomerates are driving increased consumer prices while stifling earnings for farmers.
“While factors like increased consumer demand have played a role, the price increases are also driven by a lack of competition at a key bottleneck point in the meat supply chain: meat-processing,” the report states. “The data show that these companies have been raising prices while generating record profits during the pandemic. That’s why the Biden-Harris Administration is taking bold action to enforce the antitrust laws, boost competition in meat-processing, and push back on pandemic profiteering.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has noted that four companies control between 55 and 85 percent of the market for meat, poultry, and pork. The largest meat processors in the U.S. are Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS SA, and National Beef Packing Co. Tyson Foods “categorically rejects” the assertions made in the report and suggests that unusual market conditions and a lack of labor are the more pressing issues. The North American Meat Institute (NAMI) has also pointed out that labor is the primary driver of increased consumer prices.
“American consumers of most goods and services are seeing higher costs, largely due to a persistent and widespread labor shortage. The meat and poultry industry is no different,” NAMI Chief Operating Officer, Mark Dopp said in a press release. “Issuing inflammatory statements that ignore the fundamentals of how supply and demand affects markets accomplishes nothing. Meat and poultry markets are competitive and dynamic with no one sector of the industry consistently dominating the market at the expense of another.”