The White House has announced today (January 3) that it is allocating $1 billion to independent meat and poultry producers across the United States in an effort to make the supply chain there fairer.

Along with boosting competition in the sector, the US administration is hoping the move will result in lower prices for consumers.

US President Joe Biden also met virtually with farmers, ranchers and independent processors from across the country today to hear their concerns and outline his plan to make the sector more resilient.

US Meat Industry

According to The White House, four large meat-packing companies currently control 85% of the US beef market. In poultry, the top four processing firms control 54% of the market and in pork the top four processors have about 70% market control. The administration said that the meatpackers and processors were "a key bottleneck in the food supply chain" as they buy from farmers and sell to retailers.
When dominant middlemen control so much of the supply chain, they can increase their own profits at the expense of both farmers who make less and consumers who pay more.
"50 years ago, ranchers got over 60 cents of every dollar a consumer spent on beef, compared to about 39 cents today. Similarly, hog farmers got 40 to 60 cents on each dollar spent 50 years ago, down to about 19 cents today. "Even as farmers’ share of profits have dwindled, American consumers are paying more with meat and poultry prices now the single largest contributor to the rising cost of food people consume at home," a White House statement said.

Today's announcement will see the US Department of Agriculture provide $375 million in grants for independent processing plant projects.

Other funding will be used to strengthen financing systems for independent processors, develop a well-trained workforce and for research and development. A review is also underway on food labelling rules with plans for a new "Product of USA" label in the pipeline.