(1333)#foodrecipes | Cattle associations urge DOJ probe as coronavirus pandemic price concerns continue

Since the department was already investigating the market, Perdue decided to tack on these latest COVID-19 concerns. He said that if any unfair practices are detected, the department "will take quick enforcement action," Reuters reported. U.S. Sen. Deb Fischer of Nebraska said on Twitter that ​the USDA's investigation was "a good decision to address potentially unfair practices." 

The Department of Justice has gotten involved in price issues in the meat industry before. There is congressional support for this investigation, with several senators writing a letter urging the department to investigate allegations of price fixing in the cattle market. 

The investigation from USDA and a potential one from DOJ puts pressure and scrutiny on the small group of the meat companies that dominate the market. Tyson, Cargill, JBS and National Beef Packing Company buy and process more than 80% of fed cattle in the U.S. Currently, these big meat producers are struggling to keep up with demand as workers in their processing plants are getting sick from coronavirus.

These producers have faced similar accusations before. Last year, The Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America and other cattle ranchers filed a class action lawsuit accusing the companies of a conspiracy to minimize prices paid to ranchers for cattle in order to inflate their own margins and profits. 

But it's not just cattle. The coronavirus outbreak has affected prices and supply in several categories across the food industry. Wholesale egg prices more than tripled last month as consumers cleaned out grocery store shelves.

Although it can be difficult to prove price-fixing claims, the DOJ already warned businesses that it will hold them accountable if they violate antitrust laws during the coronavirus outbreak, so these markets could face investigations in the near future. 



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