The Justice Department has made a formal demand for information from the country’s four biggest meatpackers as they investigate potential antitrust violations. A Bloomberg article says that deepens the scrutiny of an industry that’s already been hit hard by plant shutdowns due to the coronavirus.
The department’s antitrust division sent civil investigative demands, which are similar to subpoenas, to the companies. The Justice Department is also talking with state attorneys general about the probe after a group of states called for an official investigation.
The four meatpackers that control more than 80 percent of the U.S. beef processing market include Tyson Foods, JBS, Cargill, and National Beef Incorporated. Their dominance in the industry has sparked concerns about their pricing power over livestock suppliers for years.
Bloomberg says three of the companies didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. National Beef, based in Kansas City, Missouri, confirmed they did get the civil investigative demand from the Justice Department, but they noted that ”The request is very narrow in scope, which leads us to believe that the DOJ doesn’t necessarily believe there is an antitrust issue.”
The Justice Department subpoenas to meatpackers follow criminal charges last week against four current and former executives of chicken processing companies.