In response to high levels of corporate consolidation in the livestock sector, the Senate Committee on the Judiciary held a hearing in late July titled “Beefing Up Competition: Examining America’s Food Supply Chain.”
Several individuals representing meat packing plants, grocery stores, and ranchers presented testimony on the issues the industry is facing and potential solutions. National Farmers Union (NFU) President Rob Larew was among those testifying, speaking on behalf of the organization’s 200,000 members.
Larew discussed the the extent of corporate consolidation in the livestock industry and its ramifications for food producers. “The four largest companies in each sector of the meat industry have grown dramatically in the last few decades,” he said, noting that just four corporations control 85 percent of beef packing, 70 percent of pork processing, and 54 percent of broiler chicken processing. This level of corporate power has enabled anticompetitive practices like price fixing, made our food system vulnerable to disruption, and saddled farmers and consumers with fewer choices.
As a solution, Larew urged the Committee, Congress, and the administration to take several steps to “support a food supply chain that is competitive and resilient,” such as providing additional protections for farmers from corporate abuse, improving transparency in price reporting, investing in local and regional food systems, and more thoroughly scrutinizing mergers and acquisitions in the food and agriculture sector.