Monday, October 25, 2021

Vox explains how 4 companies control the beef industry for a late National Food Day

I foreshadowed the subject for National Food Day in Cyberattack on meat processor JBS shows how the food supply is a national security issue.
National Farmers Union President Rob Larew made a point that Food, Inc. makes about industrial agriculture; food processing has become too centralized and concentrated for the good of farmers, workers, and consumers and a more diverse food system would serve them better. To get students to think about that, I ask them "In 1970, how much of the beef market was controlled by the top beef packers? In 2010?" The answers show how much meat packing has consolidated during those 40 years.
In 1970, the top five meat packers controlled 25% of the beef supply. In 2010, the top four controlled 80%.
"Food, Inc." focused on how this concentration of power led to abuses of workers and outbreaks of food-borne diseases and could lead to disruptions of the food supply from market forces.
Vox shows how the consolidation has only increased in How 4 companies control the beef industry and has made the situation even worse for farmers.

Corporate consolidation is making it impossible for cattle ranchers to stay afloat.
Cattle auctions happen every day throughout the US; they serve a crucial purpose for the cattle markets. Inside one of these auctions, like the one we profile in St. Onge, South Dakota, you can see how a competitive market functions. There are multiple producers and buyers competing for a commodity, which results in a value, or price, for that commodity.

But over the past 40 years, the meatpacking sector — made up of the companies that buy and slaughter cattle for consumption — has undergone a dramatic degree of corporate consolidation. In the 1980s, the US relaxed its approach to antitrust enforcement, one tool the government uses to rein in market concentration. Today, only four companies process 85 percent of all the cattle produced in the US.

Cattle ranchers say this is affecting their ability to compete for good prices and make a living. This is one way industrialized agriculture is making it difficult for independent farmers and ranchers to stay in business in America.
This is approaching the state of chicken farming, where the processors have total control over the animals and near total control over the farmers. That may be good for consumers in the short run, but it will likely drive independent farmers out of business, setting up the chicken model for beef. I don't know if that will be good for anyone but the meatpackers in the long run.

That's it for this year's exploration of "Food, Inc." for Food Day. Stay tuned as I go all Halloween from now to the end of the month.


  1. The System working as intended.

  2. Those damn liberals setting up monopolies and moving all their factories offshore. Wasn't Obama President in 1982?