SALT LAKE CITY — Senators Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Amy Klobuchar, D-Minnesota, are asking the nation’s top law enforcement agencies to investigate the meat supply chain.
The senators sent a joint letter to Attorney General William Barr, FTC Chairman Heath Tarbert, and Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue, asking for those agencies to look into vulnerabilities in the U.S.meat supply chain.
“As Americans have gone to buy groceries during this pandemic, they have often been confronted by higher prices for beef and pork products, or in some circumstances, nearly empty meat cases,” the senators wrote.
“With many restaurants now closed, food suppliers have struggled to adjust to new consumption patterns to the detriment of consumers, as well as participants up and down the meat supply chain. Livestock producers – especially independent livestock producers – are feeling the pain of these disruptions acutely.”
The senators mention since the nationwide shut-down due to the coronavirus pandemic, the price of livestock has fallen dramatically — while the prices for beef and pork in the grocery store have risen.
“As during past market disruptions, we saw producers’ margins fall to unsustainable levels while packers’ margins increased,” they said.
They said in past weeks there have been a number of major meatpacking facilities that have been closed which has caused uncertainty about the future of the country’s food supply. It could also result in an unnecessary increase in food costs for consumers.
“During this worldwide pandemic when unprecedented numbers of families are standing in food lines, we cannot afford to waste available food resources that could be utilized if only there were available options for processing and packing,” they said.
“We recognize the complex nature of these markets and the potential multi-faceted causes of these supply chain disruptions… [and] we ask that each of you, in your respective capacities, investigate the vulnerabilities in these markets that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic and identify areas of concern, regulations that can be modified or relaxed, any verifiable antitrust violations, and/or structural changes in the trading market to help ensure that our country’s food markets work for consumers, as well as our farmers, ranchers, and packers.”
It appears this is an issue that ripples from farms to the tables of the consumers, as everyone in the industry scrambles to adjust.