A bipartisan group of Attorneys General, including Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, has written a letter asking the US Department of Justice to start a federal investigation into suspected national price-fixing by meatpackers in the cattle industry.
Lynn Hicks, Communications Director of the Iowa Attorney General’s Office says it is likely there has been a manipulation of prices in the meat market.
“The four largest meatpacking companies control more than 80% of the beef processing in the United States. The shelf price of beef is exceptionally high, while cattle prices are low and continue to dive. The concern over market manipulation has increased with beef prices reaching record levels as consumers stockpile meat in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but cattle prices remain low and are decreasing”.
The 11 Attorneys General say the pricing margins are a sign that meat packers are using their ability to control the market for processed beef. This potentially illegal act hurts consumers who are still buying meat at the raised prices despite many of them having to deal with lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Cattle producers are harmed as well.
The Attorneys General (from Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming) are requesting a federal investigation.
“We are specifically asking the Department of Justice to lead a thorough examination of the competitive dynamics of this industry,” the letter says. “Now, more than ever, we need to dedicate our collective resources to promote competition and protect consumers.”