Minnesota cattle farms and Attorney General Keith Ellison are pushing the Department of Justice to investigate price fixing by major meat packing companies.
In a letter to United States Attorney General William Barr, Ellison, along with attorney generals from 10 other states, called for an investigation into market manipulation in the cattle industry amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the letter, an environment like the beef industry – largely controlled by four major corporations – is often perfect for price fixing and manipulation. This means cattle farmers and ranchers will receive less for their livestock even as consumer prices stay the same.
Consumer demand for beef has remained steady, according to the letter, but the amount farmers and ranchers are receiving has hit an 18-year low, the letter states.
Four meat companies control 80 percent of U.S. beef processing. These companies are JBS, Tyson, National Beef and Minnesota-based Cargill.
“In short, with such high concentration and the threat of increasing consolidation, we have concerns that beef processors are well positioned to coordinate their behavior and create a bottleneck in the cattle industry – to the detriment of ranchers and consumers alike,” the letter reads.
The Minnesota Farmers Union also called for an investigation into possible market manipulation.
The union added that the poultry and pork industries are subject to similar issues. These farmers are further harmed by outbreaks at plants of major manufacturers like the JBS pork plant in Worthington and Tyson Foods in Iowa.
These outbreaks have forced farmers to euthanize thousands of animals, the union stated.
“We’ve witnessed effects of market concentration seeing the closures of a few pork and poultry processing plants leaving huge gaps in our supply chain, in addition to causing farmers immense financial pain. We need a more diverse, flexible and resilient food system that’s fair for everyone,” the union said in a release.