President Biden’s proposal to lower consumer beef prices misses the mark on why costs have increased, the country’s largest meat industry trade group said Monday.
Sarah Little, a spokeswoman for the North American Meat Institute, said labour shortages and shutdowns of meat production facilities because of COVID-19 are the real culprits — not monopolies and price-fixing as Mr. Biden contends.
“The market has already begun to balance itself. All of the government spending announced again today is too late for consumers and producers,” Ms. Little said in an interview. “The White House is eager to announce $1billion in spending — again — on expanding meat packing capacity but has not engaged packer processors since the summer.”
President Biden is blaming the increased beef pries on anti-competitive practices in the meat industry. He accused four meatpacking companies of running a near-monopoly in the sector, saying they control 85% of beef processing, while another four firms control 54% of the nation’s poultry processing.
Mr. Biden on Monday will announce a $1 billion plan to expand independent beef, pork, and chicken processing to boost competition. The money will finance worker training and technical assistance to independent companies.
The president also wants meat producers selling their cattle to offer more information about their pricing.
“When dominant middlemen control so much of the supply chain, they can increase their own profits at the expense of both farmers — who make less — and consumers — who pay more,” the White House said in a fact sheet on the plan.
Ms. Little said there are still many unanswered questions about the administration’s plan, including how much the government-sponsored processors will pay employees and what the administration sees as a reasonable price for beef.
As the meat industry sees it, when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down production plants, farmers were left with nowhere to send their beef.
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