Recently, in a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, the North American Meat Institute (NAMI), a mouthpiece for the corporate meatpacking industry, complained that the Biden Administration’s work to combat concentration in the agriculture industry cannot ignore the “fundamental principles of supply and demand.”
Let us look at some facts to counter their claims. In 1977, the largest meatpackers controlled 25% of the beef supply. Today, just 4 corporations control 85% of the beef supply.
NAMI lobbied to remove Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) and succeeded in 2015, so now any beef product from anywhere in the world could be labeled as “Product of the USA”, no matter what country the meat comes from. This matters for both consumers and farmers. For example, in 2014, when the U.S. had mandatory COOL, cow/calf producers were paid around $518 per cow/calf unit. In 2020, that margin dropped to $85 per unit and is projected to be around $120 per cow/calf unit this year. This means cattle farmers are operating below their cost of production–meaning they are losing money on every animal they sell.