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.
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)
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)
Last month, the nation’s fourth-largest beef packer, National Beef, announced plans to take over Sysco-owned Iowa Premium, a regional packer focused on processing Black Angus steers for the Upper Midwest. National Beef is majority-owned by the Brazilian firm Marfrig. (No paywall)
A group of independent ranchers has expanded its lawsuit against the federal beef checkoff to include 13 more states, arguing that the checkoff violates the First Amendment by requiring ranchers to fund the "private speech" of state beef councils. The Ranchers-Cattlemen Legal Action Fund (R-CALF) filed a supplementary pleading on August 9 that expands its existing lawsuit against Montana's beef checkoff program to include beef checkoff programs in Hawaii, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Nevada, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, South Dakota, Texas, Vermont, and Wisconsin.
In June 2017, a U.S. District Court judge issued a temporary injunction on the allocation of Montana’s state beef checkoff funds. At a hearing on Monday before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, Feedstuffs reports, advocates for independent ranchers faced off against lawyers for the Department …