The Biden Administration on Wednesday announced plans to improve competition and bring more transparency to the meat processing industry.
U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack spoke during Wednesday’s White House press briefing about how families across the country have been facing higher prices at the grocery store. Vilsack said half of the recent increases are from meat prices – specifically, beef, pork and poultry. White House officials say that 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.
“Goal number one here is to make sure farmers get a fair return for their efforts in their capital investment,” said Vilsack. “The second goal is to make sure that when consumers go the grocery store and are at the checkout counter that they get fair prices. The reality is today that farmers are losing money on cattle, hogs and poultry that they are selling – at a time when consumers are seeing these higher prices at the grocery store, and the fact that there are now record profits for those in the middle.”
Vilsack says just four large conglomerates control the majority of the market for each of these three products, and the data show that these companies have been raising prices while generating record profits during the pandemic. He notes the Biden administration is taking bold action to enforce the antitrust laws, boost competition in meat-processing, and push back on pandemic profiteering that is hurting consumers, farmers, and ranchers across the country.
“Strengthening the current regulatory system that we have – our Packers and Stockyards Act – to make sure we are identifying and holding people accountable for unfair and discriminatory practices,” said Vilsack. “Secondly, to make sure that there is adequate price discovery in the market. Third, we want to make sure that when people go into the grocery store, and they see things labeled “Product of the U.S.,” we want to make sure that consumers fully understand what that means or doesn’t mean. And finally, expanding processing capacity and maintaining the small and very small processing facilities that are dotting the landscape today.”
Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley – Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee – applauded the administration’s announcement Wednesday.
In a press release, Grassley said: “Family farmers in Iowa, especially our independent livestock and poultry producers, have worked through tough year after tough year. Additional pandemic assistance and expanded emergency aid to those affected by the drought and extreme weather will help bring some much-needed stability to those who produce our food.”