US News

USDA Rules, Lack of Competition in Meat Packing Endangers Food Supply

Four corporations process most of the meat sold in the United States; two are based in other countries. American farmers say it’s time to promote competition in the meat processing industry by changing the rules to allow farmers to deal with small local processors.

“In my opinion, the Department of Justice, the USDA, and the Federal Trade Commission have been on vacation since the 1970s on antitrust issues,” Greg Gunthorp, an artisan farmer and processor from LaGrange, Indiana, told a House subcommittee on June 13.

“We are in a fight for our lives.”

Gunthorp testified before the House Judiciary’s Subcommittee on the Administrative State, Regulatory Reform, and Antitrust.

According to Subcommittee Chair Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Tyson Foods, Cargill, JBS, and Seaboard process 85 percent of the beef, 70 percent of the pork, and 54 percent of chicken in the United States.

Epoch Times Photo
A truck arrives at Smithfield Foods’ pork plant in Smithfield, Va., on Oct. 17, 2019. (Tom Polansek/Reuters)

Under federal law, farmers and ranchers can only sell meat processed at facilities with a USDA inspector on-site, so they often have to travel great distances, even though there are local slaughterhouses in their communities. Farmers often have to make an appointment months or even years in advance.

This can create bottlenecks in the system that raises prices and endangers the food supply, Massie said. This was especially evident during the pandemic.

“Affordability of meat was impacted if [consumers] could find it all,” Massie said.

In a perplexing twist of the law, while farmers cannot sell the meat they produce to their friends or neighbors, they can give it away for personal, household, guest, and employee use. Grocery stores, restaurants, and direct sales to consumers are off-limits.

“If I sell it, I become a criminal,” said Joel Salatin, co-owner of Polyface Farm in Swoope, Virginia. “What is it about money that changes the meat?”

Epoch Times Photo
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) speaks at a House committee hearing on May 18, 2023. (House Judiciary Committee/Screenshot via The Epoch Times)

Massie introduced the Processing Revival and Intrastate Meat Exemption (PRIME) Act in 2019 to promote competition. The Act would expand commercial markets to include the four exceptions and hotels and boarding houses within the same state as the processor.

Massie said the USDA regularly inspects existing processors, and states can set their own standards. So, food safety should not be compromised.

Salatin believes the current requirements overstep the government’s constitutional authority and are tyrannical.

“It’s a discriminatory, regulatory issue,” Salatin said. “Few human decisions speak to freedom like making the decision about what we swallow.”

He pointed out that small processors don’t have the resources or influence to argue with Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) inspectors like large corporations do. So, they usually go along. Arguing with an inspector can cause trouble, he said.

Firsthand Experience With USDA

Rosanna Bauman said she has firsthand experience. For 15 years, she has been co-owner and general manager of Bauman’s Cedar Valley Farm near Garnett, Kansas.

Her family-run businesses are involved in all aspects of production. They raise chicken, beef, pork, and lamb on their farm. They also slaughter and process the meat in their USDA-inspected facility. The Baumans then sell the meat through their website and from their butcher shop in Kansas.

Bauman told the subcommittee that she disagreed with an “overly aggressive” FSIS supervisor last summer. She said a relatively minor matter would have been resolved with a larger business in a few hours. However, she said that because she runs a small business, the inspector would not budge.

According to Bauman, it took 90 days to resolve the issue, which resulted in her returning 3,000 chickens to farmers and costing $80,000 in lost business. Bauman said the system is stacked against the farmer.

“We are presumed guilty. Our accuser is also our judge and jury. If I was a ‘baby’ business woman, I would have folded,” Bauman told the subcommittee.

Inspectors Sometimes Subjective

Salatin said part of the problem is subjectivity. He told the subcommittee that his cattle are primarily grass-fed. So, their meat and organs will look slightly different from grain-fed cattle. He said one inspector rejected some beef liver because it didn’t look like the grain-fed liver he was used to.

Salatin took the liver to another inspector, who gave them a pass. He said it was safer to find another inspector rather than to argue with the first one.

“You’re under this extortion all the time,” he said.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) is the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. He supports more competition. According to Nadler, the meat processing and packing industry has been consolidated and bleared too long.

According to Nadler, the first attempt to address the matter was the Sherman Antitrust Act in 1890. In the following decades, more regulations were promulgated to address health and safety concerns. These included laws to address child labor and unsanitary conditions in meat packing facilities. He agreed with Massie that the pandemic showed how fragile the food system could be.

“Meat processing is less competitive today than it was in the 1900s. Our current food system can be easily disrupted,” Nadler said.

Still, he cautioned that any changes should focus on something more than competition.

“We must keep to the same safety standards,” Nadler said.

Source link


I'm TruthUSA, the author behind TruthUSA News Hub located at With our One Story at a Time," my aim is to provide you with unbiased and comprehensive news coverage. I dive deep into the latest happenings in the US and global events, and bring you objective stories sourced from reputable sources. My goal is to keep you informed and enlightened, ensuring you have access to the truth. Stay tuned to TruthUSA News Hub to discover the reality behind the headlines and gain a well-rounded perspective on the world.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.