Biden administration plans tougher measures to curb meat prices

Meat is cut for mincing at a butcher’s shop in New Tripoli, Pennsylvania, USA, May 14, 2020. REUTERS / Jonathan Ernst / File Photo

WASHINGTON, Sept. 8 (Reuters) – The Biden administration plans to take a tougher stance on meat packers it says are causing sticker shock in grocery stores.

Four companies control much of the U.S. meat processing market, and key aides to President Joe Biden blamed those companies for rising food prices in a blog on Wednesday.

As part of a package of initiatives, the administration will channel $ 1.4 billion in cash for the COVID-19 pandemic revival to small-scale meat producers and workers, administration assistants said. in the blog post. They also pledged measures to “crack down on illegal pricing,” White House aides said in the blog.

Four companies slaughtered about 85% of grain-fed cattle in the United States that are processed into steaks, roast beef and other cuts of meat for consumers in 2018, according to the most recent data from the United States Department of Agriculture ( USDA).

The four major processors in the US beef industry are: Cargill (CARG.UL), a global commodities trader based in Minnesota; Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N), the chicken producer who is the largest American meat company in terms of sales; JBS SA (JBSS3.SA), based in Brazil, the world’s largest meat packer; and National Beef Packing Co (NBEEF.UL), which is controlled by Brazilian beef producer Marfrig Global Foods SA (MRFG3.SA).

Price hikes for beef, pork and poultry have led to half the price hikes Americans have paid for the food they eat at home since December, the White House said. And the administration sees these companies reaping too much profit after the stimulus helped support demand for their products.

“We have helped support this market, and it is frustrating to see these companies turn around and raise prices,” Bharat Ramamurti, deputy director of the White House’s National Economic Council, said in an interview. “What we are seeing here smacks of pandemic profit and is the behavior that the administration finds concerning.”

Rising inflation has posed a serious threat to Biden’s efforts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic – his top priority as president – and stage an economic recovery from the recession it caused.

The Biden administration has responded to these problems in part by stepping up efforts to crack down on what it sees as anti-competitive and monopolistic behavior that could raise prices. A meeting of the new White House Competition Council created by Biden is scheduled for Friday.

The USDA and the Department of Justice have previously conducted an investigation into pricing in the chicken processing industry. Read more

“The goal over time is to bring these prices down,” Ramamurti said.

U.S. lawmakers seek increased surveillance of the beef industry as concerns over anti-competitive behavior rise after the pandemic and a cyberattack on JBS USA. Read more

The administration is “encouraged” by bipartisan legislation that could make it easier to negotiate prices in the meat market, she said in the blog.

Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Washington Additional reporting by Tom Polansek in Chicago Editing by Matthew Lewis

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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