June 2, 2020
SALT LAKE CITY – Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes is notifying the Department of Justice that a growing number of states intend to pursue a federal investigation into suspected national price-fixing by meatpackers in the cattle industry, and urge the Department to coordinate with the states on that investigation.
In a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr, AG Reyes expressed concern over the likelihood of manipulation of the market for processed beef. 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.
“Especially now, we need to encourage fair competition in the meat packing industry and protect consumers,” said Attorney General Reyes. “We intend to ask the DOJ to conduct a vigorous investigation into the meatpacking industry with an eye on what kinds of competitive practices occur.”
Attorney General Reyes says 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 the federal antitrust law. In addition to harming cattle producers, this potentially illegal practice hurts consumers nationwide, many of whom are themselves struggling because of loss of employment and reduced incomes.
Attorney General Reyes and a growing number of Attorneys General from Midwestern states believe the situation warrants a full federal investigation because the alleged anticompetitive conduct harms consumers and cattle ranchers across the United States.
Read the letter here.