LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) – Nebraska, Wyoming, and South Dakota are among 11 Midwestern states whose attorneys general have urged the U-S Justice Department to investigate market concentration and potential price fixing by meatpackers in the cattle industry during the coronavirus pandemic.
The state attorneys general wrote in a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr dated Tuesday that the concentrated market structure of the beef industry makes it particularly susceptible to market manipulation, especially during times of food insecurity, such as the current COVID-19 crisis.
The four largest meat packing companies control more than 80% of the beef processing in the United States. The attorneys general say the shelf price of beef is currently exceptionally high while cattle prices are low and continue to fall.
They say the pricing margins are a sign that meat packers are using their ability to control the market for processed beef and take advantage of the situation in a manner that could violate federal antitrust law.
They believe the situation warrants a full federal investigation because the alleged anticompetitive conduct harms both consumers and cattle ranchers across the country.