WASHINGTON —Two senators recently proposed a bipartisan investigation for the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine possible anti-competitive practices and antitrust law violations by the beef industry. 

If the resolution goes through, Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) would want a report from the FTC within a year.

“For the past two years, I have been calling on the Department of Justice to investigate allegations of price-fixing, collusion and other unfair practices in the beef packing industry,” Rounds said. “Unfortunately, the Department of Justice has seemingly not made these concerns a priority and both consumers and cattle producers in South Dakota continue to suffer as a result. For years, the price paid to cattle producers for their high-quality American products has not followed the price of beef at the grocery store. Meanwhile, the four largest beef packers, who control over 80% of the beef processing capacity, have enjoyed record profits.”

The bipartisan joint resolution would direct the FTC to report to Congress within one year on: 

  • the extent of anti-competitive practices and violations of antitrust law in the beef-packing industry, including price fixing, anti-competitive acquisitions, dominance of supply chains and monopolization 
  • the monetary and other harms of anti-competitive practices and violations of antitrust law in the beef-packing industry on consumers, ranchers, farmers, plant workers and small businesses
  • recommendations for legislation or other remedial actions

In late April, four of the major meat companies in the United States, Cargill Inc., JBS USA, Tyson Foods Inc. and National Beef Packing Co., testified in front of the House Agriculture Committee regarding the state of beef and cattle markets.

Tyson Foods president Donnie King explained in his released testimony the stance of his company regarding the current market factors.

“Tyson does not set the prices for either the cattle we buy or the beef our customers purchase,” he stated. “These prices are set by straightforward market forces, namely available supply and demand.”