Biden Targets Consolidation in the Meat Industry:The plan includes investing in small, regional processing plants, fixing cattle markets, and making rule changes related to the Packers & Stockyards Act and “Product of USA” labeling. Farmer and antitrust advocacy groups have long pushed for the changes, which they say will restore healthy competition to markets, put a greater share of profits into producers’ pockets, and protect farmers from unchecked meatpacker power.

The White House echoed those points while also attributing some of the blame for rising meat prices to a consolidated industry. Attorney General Merrick Garland also promised to partner with USDA to promote competition in the industry and announced a plan to launch a “centralized, accessible portal” to collect reports of potential antitrust violations related to meat production.

Meat Industry
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If the latest announcement is giving you déjà vu, that’s understandable. In July, we covered Biden’s executive order on promoting economic competition, which included many of the same provisions related to agriculture. (The announcement is so similar, some industry groups are just recycling their “comments.” The Washington Post’s coverage of the Action Plan included the exact same quote the National Chicken Council President sent Civil Eats six months ago.)

The biggest change since then is that in July the USDA said it would invest $500 million in American Rescue Plan funds in expanding small, independent meat processing—a sector that proved important feeding local markets during the pandemic. This week’s Action Plan upped that number to $1 billion and provided more details on exactly how it will be used.

However, all of the initiatives are still in the planning phase and it’s too early to know how quickly they will be implemented and what impact they will have, especially since the powerful meat industry it is targeting is already gearing up to fight some of the rulemaking efforts.

One thing is certain: President Biden is not mincing words on this issue: “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Capitalism without competition isn’t capitalism. It’s exploitation,” he told farmers. “That’s what we’re seeing in the meat and poultry . . . industries now.” No matter how much he’s driven by deflecting blame for inflation away from the administration, as many media outlets have homed in on, that kind of public resistance to meatpacker power is rare and the impacts of the policy changes will be the same.

Read more:
As COVID Disrupts the Industrial Meat System, Independent Processors Shine
The Pandemic Has the Potential to Transform Meatpacking in the U.S.
Farmers and Ranchers Head to D.C. to Level the Playing Field
With Their Livelihoods Under Threat, Livestock Producers Pin Their Hopes on Labeling

New Housing for Hogs in 2022? Rules that would give pigs and chickens raised on industrial farms more space to move around were approved by voters in both Massachusetts and California and were set to go into effect on January 1, but it’s not that simple. After years of fierce industry opposition that included warnings of price increases and pork and egg shortages, Massachusetts state lawmakers changed the law to make it easier for companies to meet the requirements for laying hens and gave pork producers another seven and a half months to comply. In California, the law is now technically in effect, but pork from hogs that entered the supply chain in 2021 is exempt, effectively giving producers another six months. And while previous lawsuits have been thrown out by courts, industry groups filed a new suit in California in November and are trying to get the Supreme Court to hear another (that a lower court already ruled against).

Read more:
Is the Pork Industry Using Food Justice to Stall California’s New Animal Welfare Law?
Absent Federal Policy, States Take Lead on Animal Welfare
Could Crate-Free Pork Become the New Industry Standard?
The Cage-Free Egg Battle Goes to Massachusetts

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