Kentucky officials want DOJ investigation of meatpackers

OWENSBORO, Ky. (AP) — Kentucky officials on Friday asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the meatpacking industry after local cattle farmers complained the price they are paid for their animals is continuing to drop at the same time beef prices are skyrocketing.

Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles and Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron jointly drafted the letter that asks the Justice Department to “undertake and investigation into the potentially illegal anticompetitive practices by some meatpackers in the cattle industry," the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports.

Kentucky’s 38,000 cattle farmers make it the largest beef cattle state east of the Mississippi.

“Our beef cattle producers have seen 30% and 40% price drops since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, even while the price of beef products at the grocery store has increased,” Quarles said.

“We have about four packers that control 80% of the market,” said Dave Maples, Kentucky Cattlemen’s Association executive vice president. “What this letter and call for an investigation is about is having the Department of Justice investigate these packers and ensure that their practices are transparent and fair and these farmers get what their product is worth and that these four major packers aren’t colluding to fix prices.”