JBS is the world’s largest meatpacker. The company controls 24 percent of all cattle produced in the United States.
It’s August 2010, the night before a national workshop on competition in the livestock industry, and well over 500 ranchers, feedlot owners and their allies are packed into this room to talk about change. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack cites a grim statistic: The number of U.S. cattle producers has plummeted from 1.6 million in 1980 to 950,000 today. Vilsack doesn’t directly blame the meatpackers, but says, “We can’t continue these trends, because if we do, we’re going to end up with a handful of farmers, a handful of packers, a handful of processors, a handful of grocery stores, and at that point, the consumers will suffer as well.” “We all know they’re harassed by many demons: Land, feed and fuel costs have all soared. Newly health-conscious consumers disdain red meat; environmentalists regularly sue over grazing practices. Retail giants like Walmart grab an increasing share of any profits. The price a rancher gets for beef, adjusted for inflation, dropped from $1.97 to 93 cents per pound between 1980 and 2009,” he added.
Four corporations control 80 percent of the beef slaughtered in the U.S., in addition to paying ranchers poorly, those companies can charge consumers higher prices. Over the past decade, ground beef prices have increased by 24 percent. But most of that money ends up in the pockets of the big meatpackers, not with our local farmers and ranchers.
Title: Big Beef “Cattlemen Struggle against giant meatpacking companies and the squeeze of economic efficiency” March 21, 2011
Sources: High Country News, April 17, 2011
Letter from Sam Schabacker to High country Magazine
Consumers feel Big Beef’s squeeze, too April 17, 2011
Authors: Stephanie Paige
Sam Schabacker Letter to High Country Magazine
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips Sonoma State University
Student Researcher: Ron Tureck, Sonoma State University