Beef prices and cattle prices not matching up, USDA expanding investigation


Demand for certain basics at the grocery store are up due to the COVID-19 outbreak. People may be going to the store less, but they are buying those basics in bulk.

Beef sales are up due to the outbreak, but the prices of live calves have somehow gone down. This has confused many in the industry and has caused Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), to call for an investigation into “potential market and price manipulation, collusion, restrictions on competition and/or other unfair and deceptive practices,” as he wrote in a letter to the Attorney General and Secretary of Agriculture last week.

“The Big Four” (Tyson, JBS, Smithfield, and Cargill) control more than 80 percent of the American beef industry and this past year has brought several lawsuits against those companies. The lawsuits have accused these companies of conspiring to keep cattle prices low and beef prices high, in part by closing functional processing plants in order to artificially reduce supply.

April 6: Beef producers struggling with high demand, but low cattle prices

April 9: the USDA announced it would be expanding its beef market investigation.

April 13: JBS announces it will shut down its beef packing plant to arrange COVID-19 testing for its employees.

April 14: NCBA responds to news of beef packing plant closing due to COVID-19

April 16: Cattlemen Organizations call for Department of Justice to join cattle market investigation