Biden Administration Aims to Tackle High Meat Prices By Increasing Competition in Industry

The Biden administration is looking to reduce inflation-linked high meat prices by making moves to increase competition in the meat industry.

President Joe Biden will hold a virtual meeting with independent ranchers and farmers on Monday to discuss the initiatives, which are part of a larger action to reduce the high inflation rates that have impacted his approval ratings.

Meat prices have risen 16 percent from a year ago, with an especially high jump of 20.9 percent in beef prices. Biden issued an executive order in July instructing the Department of Agriculture to look more forcefully into potential breaches of the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act aimed at protecting buyers and fair competition.

His administration is now building off that order by looking at meat processing plants, which can influence how much farmers are paid and how much buyers are charged for meat. The top four processing companies control 85 percent of the beef market, and in poultry, the top four companies control 54 percent of the market, according to a White House fact sheet. The four biggest firms for pork also control 70 percent of the market.

In the virtual meeting, Biden intends to bring up plans to use $1 billion from the COVID-19 relief package to distribute funds to independent meat processors and provide additional funding to train new industry workers and improve conditions. He also plans to highlight new rules that will be issued for meatpackers and requirements to label meat as a "Product of USA."

U.S. Meat Prices
Meat prices have risen 16 percent from a year ago, with an especially high jump of 20.9 percent in beef prices. Above, a person shops in the meat section of a grocery store on November 11, 2021, in Los Angeles. Mario Tama/Getty Images

The White House event will occurs on Monday afternoon as higher-than-expected inflation has thwarted Biden's agenda. Consumer prices in November rose 6.8 percent over the prior 12 months—a 39-year high.

Inflation has hurt Biden's public approval, become fodder for Republican attacks and prompted Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat, to cite higher prices as a reason to sideline the Democratic president's tax, social and economic programs.

The Justice Department and the Agriculture Department will launch a joint effort to make it easier to report anti-competitive actions to the government. The administration will also seek to improve the transparency of the cattle market.

The effort is part of a broader attempt to regain control of America's economic narrative. Besides inflation, the repeated waves of coronavirus outbreak have dampened people's opinions about the economy despite strong growth over the past year.

Biden will have an opportunity to highlight the economy's strengths with the December jobs report being released Friday. Economists surveyed by FactSet expect that the United States added 362,000 jobs last month with the unemployment rate ticking down to 4.1 percent.

Gains of that magnitude would indicate that the U.S. added roughly 6.5 million jobs last year, more than in any other previous year in a reflection of population growth and government spending.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Biden Inflation Measures
President Joe Biden will hold a virtual meeting with independent ranchers and farmers on Monday to discuss meat industry initiatives, which are part of a larger action to reduce high inflation rates. Above, Biden walks to speak with reporters on the South Lawn before departing from the White House on Marine One on December 27, 2021, in Washington, D.C. Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images