Blame for high beef prices got passed around during a hearing April 27 before the U.S. House and Senate agricultural committees.
Donnie King, CEO of Tyson Foods, told the lawmakers that “market forces mean there are times when the commodity business cycle favors one party over another.” But U.S. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) told his colleagues in testimony: “Not only is the farmer getting [ripped off], but the consumer is, too, because the packers can set the price at both ends and make as much money as they want in the middle.”
The lawmakers were holding hearings on two pieces of legislation: one to set up a new office at USDA to monitor anti-competitive behavior in the meat & poultry sector; and one, co-sponsored by Tester, that would require minimum prices and clear reporting of contracts between meat producers and processors.
A spokesperson for a Montana agriculture group said that the biggest four beef packers, who among them control more than 80% of the market, had been using short-staffing during the pandemic as an “excuse” to raise prices. But King insisted that there was no “pandemic profiteering” and that “we just didn’t have enough people to fully staff our plants.”