Corporate consolidation is making it impossible for cattle ranchers to stay afloat.
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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.
For this story, we contacted Tyson Foods, Cargill, National Beef, and JBS for comment. We only received a response from Tyson: A representative shared testimony from one of the company’s executives at a recent Senate hearing. We included that in this video, and the full transcript is below:
This is the first episode of a series we are producing with the Future Perfect team at Vox, who explore big problems and the big ideas that can tackle them. We are calling this season The Human Cost of Meat, and future episodes will explore other ways industrial meat production has transformed the lives of people who consume meat, work in the meat industry, or live next to a factory farm.
Watch Episode 2, The chicken industry’s worker safety problem: https://youtu.be/Ia3abCiYX3w
Watch Episode 3, Hog farming has a massive poop problem: https://youtu.be/WsUNylsiDH8
Future Perfect produced a podcast season on other ways Big Meat has changed our lives:
Claire Kelloway’s reporting for Vox on Big Meat:
New York Times reporting on how the pandemic revealed supply chain bottlenecks:
The CEO of R-CALF USA, Bill Bullard, was a source for this story. R-CALF is in the midst of a lawsuit against the packing industry. For the latest on their case:
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30 thoughts on “How 4 companies control the beef industry”
It creates an illusion of choice not "sort of an illusion of choice"
The lumber industry is also controlled by 5 companies
Thanks for making small ranches n farms sound louder noticeable
Stop buying it
they'll still vote for republicans anyway
Of course its Reagen🙆♂️
Why Amerikan will died without eating beef😊😊😊😊😊
The amount of random/general knowledge I have of USA because of Vox
Is absolutely ridiculous
lol, now if the feedlot owners, form a co-operative and also decide to play in the meat packing industry by setting up the plants and companies to do that, then dictate what guidelines they will use in the sale of meat and then ban contracts completely. What could possibly go wrong.
What people fail to realize is that those big companies have such large steel contracts with growers that they already control the market, and that a lot of these auctions or nothing more than winter dressing, as to which they go and push the local price up to make the smaller producers pay more while they pay less on the contracted beef along with the fact that they have the help of the federal government USda to over regulate the small companies while they turn their head for the larger ones I’ve seen this in operation for a long time the federal government does not want small plants anymore than the big four do it’s about control on both ends and not in the name of health, especially financial health America needs to wake up
I feel for these ranchers, like so many others of us, exploited and uncared for.
My family has never ever brought food from a supermarket we produce our own meat and vegetables produce our own medication.
Same everywhere in America. The super rich get richer and even more powerful
Bring the FTC in
Build you own slaughter house.
so that's why american beef has such a bad rap with meat quality…
and NO farm group out there who represents farmers will NOT fight for pay for the farmer. BUT the people working in the farm groups they get their raises and benefits!!! i HAVE to pay the beef board when i ship i HAVE to pay the milk marketing board i HAVE NO choice. when i milked i HAVE to pay farm first i have no choice. and when i quit milking i was getting the same price as i was 9 years earlier BUT my milk company WAS hauling milk in from another state?? i will NO longer be a member of farm bureau who get the pay THEY want to represent me THEN wont return my calls when i have a question
Welcome to the capitalism 😂
Americans complaining of free markets?? Seem like a videos to s**it on JBS, markets arrange themselves, naturally. American farmers are just inneficient. That's just Rome crumbling.
Watching as outsider, I just confused why can't American just buy meat at butcher stall? It's much fresher anyway.
Thank you for this video
The system is broken for sure!
Thanks ! I definitely won’t be buying and beef or pork.
We should help the people who hold together the foods markets from decates and show them some respect due to the reason that for a long time we had beef vegetables fruits etc. on our tables because of them
Surprised Vox is covering this find a local producer and processor and circumvent these corporations, it's an upfront cost but your getting animals with a much better quality of life.
The hog chicken and dairy businesses are no different.
Thanks for watching! This is the first episode of a series we are producing with the Future Perfect team at Vox, who explore big problems and the big ideas that can tackle them.
We are calling this season The Human Cost of Meat, and future episodes will explore other ways industrial meat production has transformed the lives of people who consume meat, work in the meat industry, or live next to a factory farm.
You can listen to more Future Perfect reporting on other ways Big Meat has changed our lives here: https://www.vox.com/future-perfect-podcast
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