Missouri’s junior senator says four companies process 85 percent of all beef in the United States, and he’s calling on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to launch an antitrust investigation into the meatpacking industry.

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley’s official portrait (2020 photo courtesy of Senator Hawley’s press office in Washington)

U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R) made his comments during a Wednesday interview with Missourinet, saying farmers need help. He says Missouri farmers and ranchers have approached him, especially in the last few months, saying they are desperate to have more options when it comes to selling their livestock.

“Right now the meatpacking industry has become too consolidated,” Hawley says. “We’ve got just one or two or three companies who control the whole thing.”

Hawley serves on the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which is the U.S. Senate’s chief oversight committee.

Hawley says four companies … Tyson Foods, Cargill, JBS and Smithfield Foods … process 85 percent of all beef in the United States. He says Tyson, JBS and Smithfield control 63 percent of the nation’s pork processing.

He’s calling on the FTC to “ask probing questions” about the major meatpacking firms’ conduct, pricing and contracting.

Hawley is teaming up with U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin), in his call. Senators Hawley and Baldwin have written a two-page letter to the FTC, saying the closing of three pork plants due to COVID-19 has resulted “in the shutdown of a staggering 15 percent of America’s pork production.”

According to Hawley, consumers risk seeing shortages at grocery stores.

“It’s also bad for consumers, as we’re seeing now. Consumers being told in some places in our state and around the country that they can’t buy more than a certain amount of meat at the grocery store,” says Hawley.

He says the meatpacking industry is dominated by firms that have concentrated meat processing into fewer facilities.

“This market consolidation has led to the increased concentration of meat production in just a handful of plants,” the letter from Hawley and Baldwin reads. “For instance, over the last several decades, the number of slaughterhouses processing more than one million hogs annually has more than doubled: among those slaughterhouses processing more than 50,000 hogs every year, 90 percent are these ‘mega-slaughterhouses.’ Cattle slaughterhouses have also seen increased concentration, with the average number of cattle slaughtered per plant doubling between 1976 and 2006.”

Senators Hawley and Baldwin say the concentration has undermined the stability of America’s meat supply and is an issue of national security.

Click here to listen to the full five-minute interview between Missourinet’s Brian Hauswirth and U.S. Sen. Josh Hawley (R):

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