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Biden Administration Says Meatpackers Engaged in ‘Pandemic Profiteering’

This May 20, 2020, photo provided by Smithfield Foods shows some of the measures the company says it has taken to limit the spread of the coronavirus inside its plants. Workers inside its Sioux Falls, South Dakota, pork processing plant wear protective gear and are separated by plastic partitions as they carve up meat. (Photo courtesy Smithfield Foods via AP)

(Radio Iowa) Biden Administration officials say the nation’s four major meatpackers are engaging in profiteering during the pandemic and generating record or near-record profits this year. U-S Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack says it’s time to hold meatpackers responsible for unfair practices.

“Farmers are losing money on cattle, on hogs and poultry that they are selling at a time when consumers are seeing higher prices at the grocery store,” he says. Vilsack and other members of the administration’s competitiveness council meet Friday to discuss ways to address consolidation in the industry.

“I remember talking to a producer the other day in Council Bluffs and he said: ‘I don’t get this, Mr. Secretary. I just sold my cattle and I lost $150 a head, but the processor made $1800 a head,” Vilsack says. “How can that be?” Legislation introduced in congress would require more disclosure of the prices meatpackers are paying private contractors. That may give independent livestock producers a better sense of what meatpackers are willing to pay for cattle, hogs and poultry. According to the National Meat Institute, consumers are paying higher prices for beef, pork, chicken and eggs because of a persistent and widespread shortage of workers in meatpacking plants.

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