Wednesday, September 15, 2021
Meat prices fuel inflation; hikes don't always help producers
"Prices for beef, pork and chicken have surged during the pandemic, and the Biden administration believes it knows who's partly behind it: a handful of big meatpacking companies that control most of the country's supply. Beef prices alone jumped 12.2% over the last year, according to new consumer inflation data on Tuesday, making it one of the costliest items in the surging bills that consumers face today at the grocery store," Scott Horsley reports for NPR.
"The surge in meat prices is contributing to high inflation. The Labor Department reported Tuesday that consumer price index rose 5.3% in the 12 months ending in August. That's down slightly from June and July when inflation was running at 5.4% — but it's still near the highest level in nearly 13 years. Pork prices jumped 9.8% in the last year while chicken prices jumped 7.2%."
Market prices for lean hogs are slightly above where they were a year ago, after a long climb in the winter and spring that made them almost double the 10-year low they hit in January. Cattle market prices are slightly higher than a year ago, after several ups and downs, but are well below 5- and 10-year highs.
Farmers who raise meat animals have long complained that major meatpackers exert too much control over the market, with four processors taking more than 80% of production. The Agriculture Department is investigating whether such companies have colluded to raise beef prices by limiting supply. President Biden specifically addressed meatpackers in a July 9 executive order aimed at promoting economic competition.