Congress investigates high meat prices, considers legislation

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(NewsNation) — Meat prices are soaring, and while Congress ponders legislation to crack down on the costs, leading meat producers are blaming the pandemic and saying the war in Ukraine could drive costs even higher.

Meanwhile, small meat producers are alleging that the “big four” companies, Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill and National Beef, are controlling the market and forcing them out of business.

On Capitol Hill Wednesday, Missouri cattle producer Coy Young said, “There’s blood on the hands of the packers and leaders in Washington, and no one seems to care.” He said that small producers like himself stood no chance up against the “big four,” and they were being forced out of the market. He blamed greed and corruption.

More than 500,000 cattle ranchers have been forced out of business since the 1980s, leaving the business largely in the hands of the “big four.” Those huge corporations now control 87 percent of the American beef supply.

In 2021, the Biden administration directed the Department of Justice to look into the industry, accusing the “big four” of price-gouging, burdening the American farmer and adding costs and stress onto the consumer. Americans are paying 14 percent more for fish and meat than this time last year, and ground beef and bacon have rocketed up by 26 percent.

Congressional Democrats blame the high prices on the “big four” colluding to squeeze out competition. The four companies fire back that there’s no data to prove the claim and state that they don’t control prices, the global market does. They blame current price spikes on the pandemic.

Cargill CEO David McClennan said, “The price for meat is not immune to the global factors that are causing inflation supply and demand labor constraints, Transportation challenges and rising feed costs add even greater pressure and it all leads to increased prices at retail.”

Congressional Democrats say more USDA regulation is needed to stop price manipulation; however, Republicans say that likely won’t result in lower costs to the consumer.  

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