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Senator Warren Endorses Pro-Competitive Measures in Meat Industry


In an address to the Open Market Institute, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) supported the pro-competitive measures advanced by USDA secretary Tom Vilsack. Senator Warren points to the concentration within four packers responsible for processing 70 percent of pork and 85 percent of beef.  She urges dismantling of oligopolies to create “real competition”.  Senator Warren also supports the proposal by her colleague Senator John Tester (D-MT) to establish an Office of the Special Investigator to review antitrust violations by meat packers.


A representative of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association noted that enforcement is currently conducted by the USDA Stockyards Division, in accordance with the Packers and Stockyards Act.  This existing entity would parallel and compete with the Special Investigator proposed in legislation sponsored by Senator Tester.


Senator Warren also criticized the merger between Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms. She is opposed to awarding USDA supply contracts to JBS and Pilgrim’s Pride based on prior contravention of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.


Given the opposition of Senator Warren and also Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) to intensive livestock production, industry associations will have to be more active in lobbying and presenting the advantages of concentration to consumers.  By the same token, the disadvantages that will accrue from disruption of supply chain and higher cost should also be publicized. 


There may be some inefficiency and inequity in the current structure of meat production that can be addressed. Radical proposals advanced to “break up the big meat packers to create competition” is analogous to throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Copyright © 2023 Simon M. Shane