Minnesota AG Keith Ellison pushes for federal investigation of beef-packing industry

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has joined a coalition of 11 attorneys general in asking the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue a federal investigation into market competition and potential anticompetitive practices by meat packers in the cattle industry.

According to a release from the state Attorney General's Office, the coalition sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr noting signs that packers are manipulating the market.

The coalition also noted a disparity between prices for beef products and the "rapidly decreasing live-weight prices" for cattle that are paid to producers.

Ellison's office wrote that companies should be fighting for upstream supply and competing to provide the highest quality product at the lowest cost to consumers. If the absence of this competition is the result of coordination, it could be a violation of federal antitrust law.

“Minnesotans just want to be able to afford their lives — now more than ever, during the COVID-19 pandemic," Ellison said in the release. "For Minnesota’s small and mid-size cattle producers, this looks like being able to trust that they can get fair-market value for their beef cattle. For Minnesota consumers, this looks like having confidence that they’re paying a fair price for the beef products they buy. But the beef market isn’t working for producers or consumers right now — instead of a fair, competitive market, it has the hallmarks of manipulated, anti-competitive market."