The toll the coronavirus has taken on the meatpacking industry may be greater than currently thought, said a House panel on Wednesday in asking Cargill and National Beef, two of the largest U.S. meat processors, to disclose how many of their workers had contracted Covid-19 and how many had died. (No paywall)
With cell-cultured meat getting closer to the marketplace, the USDA's meat safety agency is asking consumers how the high-tech products should be labeled and whether using names such as "pork loin" or "steak" to describe them should be permitted.
The USDA will launch two new cattle pricing reports next week that "will bring needed clarity to the marketplace," said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on Thursday. The reports, which will provide more information on prices for cattle sold through the major channels, were greeted as a significant step toward transparency in an often-opaque market.
With Sen. John Thune decrying an "oligopoly" in the beef industry, a handful of senators on Wednesday called for Congress to give cattle producers a fairer shake when they send their stock to market.
Meat processor JBS said all of its plants were fully operational on Thursday, four days after a ransomware attack shut down cattle slaughter plants in the United States, Canada, and Australia. Less than a day's worth of production was lost during the attack, the company said.
The United States is "looking closely" at whether to retaliate against Russian President Vladimir Putin for the ransomware attack on meatpacker JBS, said President Biden on Wednesday. The White House said all options for action were on the table and that Biden would raise the issue directly with Putin when the leaders meet in Geneva later this month.
Agricultural law expert Janie Hipp promised on Thursday to be "a big voice at the interdepartmental table" in dealing with cattle prices and biofuels if she is confirmed by the Senate to lead the USDA's legal shop. "I commit to you that I will get on this [cattle price transparency] as one of my very, very top priorities."
Although beef and pork slaughter plants ran at less than three-fourths capacity last week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue says, "We think most of our facilities will be back on line" by the end of this week. That would account for as much as 85 percent of U.S. meat-processing capacity. Fourteen beef, pork and poultry plants resumed operation last week, according to the USDA. Other tallies showed a handful of plants still shut down.(No paywall)
Besides billions of dollars in cash payments to farmers, coronavirus relief will include purchases of "as much" milk and meat as possible for hunger relief, said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday. President Trump says at least $16 billion will be spent on aid to agriculture. (No paywall)
Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced on social media Wednesday that an ongoing USDA investigation of beef prices will be expanded to include complaints about unfair prices due to the coronavirus pandemic. (No paywall)
Wholesale beef prices have jumped to record levels, as shoppers stockpile meat in response to the global coronavirus pandemic. But this run on beef isn’t helping cattle ranchers. On the contrary, cattle prices have plummeted since January, putting many ranchers on the brink of collapse. “It’s never been worse. The futures market is crashing … and box beef prices are skyrocketing. It’s nuts,” says rancher Mike Callicrate of St. Francis, Kansas. (No Paywall)
Despite interest among cattle activists, a return to mandatory country-of-origin labels on beef "is not going to happen unless we want to do a billion-dollar litigation damage with Mexico and Canada," said Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday.
Walmart entered the beef business when it opened a processing plant in Georgia that will cut and prepare steaks and roasts for sale in 500 of its stores in the U.S. Southeast. If the plant is successful, says an analyst, “it could mean Walmart takes another step up the supply chain towards the producer.”
Just a few months after news broke that the nation’s top attorneys are investigating Big Chicken for alleged antitrust violations, similar allegations are piling up against Big Beef. Consumers, ranchers, and a meat distributor have now filed lawsuits alleging that the country’s biggest beef companies have broken antitrust law by conspiring to raise the price of beef and lower the amount paid to producers.
Japanese beef producers will be hit the hardest by their nation's agreement to reduce tariffs on U.S. food and agriculture products, according to an estimate by the government in Tokyo. The package calls for Japan to reduce or eliminate tariffs on $7.4 billion worth of U.S. ag exports beginning on Jan. 1.
Newly released documents in a lawsuit between a group of independent Montana cattle ranchers and the USDA show that millions of dollars from an industry marketing fund are being diverted to the top cattle lobby, which some ranchers have long claimed misappropriates those funds for political use. The case could reshape how the beef checkoff, as the marketing program is called, is administered.(No paywall)
In a new lawsuit, environmental advocates say a Colorado beef-packing plant owned by JBS has been dumping polluted wastewater into a river for years. The suit comes as the Brazilian company is under fire for taking millions in President Trump's tariff bailout payments. (No paywall)
Last week, several Midwestern feedlot owners along with the Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF) filed a class-action lawsuit alleging that dominant meatpackers conspired to depress cattle prices starting in 2015. The case argues that JBS, Tyson, Cargill, and National Beef strategically cut back on open market cattle bids, closed plants, and imported costly foreign cattle in order to force farmers to accept lower prices and manipulate spot market cattle values.(No paywall)