September Meat Market Update

As meat prices continue to hover around record levels, it appears the federal government is preparing to enter the fray.

The Biden administration plans to take a tougher stance toward meatpacking companies who are causing sticker shock for restaurant and grocery store operators.

Four companies control much of the U.S. meat processing market, and top aides to President Joe Biden blamed those companies for rising food prices. 

As part of a set of initiatives, the administration will funnel $1.4 billion in COVID-19 pandemic stimulus money to small meat producers and workers, administration aides said in the blog post. They also promised action to "crack down on illegal price fixing."

The big four processors in the U.S. beef sector are: Cargill (CARG.UL), a global commodity trader based in Minnesota; Tyson Foods Inc (TSN.N), the chicken producer that is the biggest U.S. meat company by sales; Brazil-based JBS SA (JBSS3.SA), the world's biggest meatpacker; and National Beef Packing Co (NBEEF.UL), which is controlled by Brazilian beef producer Marfrig Global Foods SA (MRFG3.SA).

Tyson Foods, which sells beef, pork and chicken, rejected the White House's assertion that consolidation in the meatpacking sector is driving up prices. The company blamed the pandemic and the U.S. labor shortage for limiting production.

Only time will tell if the closer inspection of the big four processors will lead to normalization of pricing for consumers.

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