A consolidated market leaves ranchers wondering what’s next

While consumers pay high beef prices at the grocery store, very little has trickled down to ranchers — in fact, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the gap between the retail price for beef and the price producers receive is the largest it's ever been. In interviews, eight ranchers in seven states agreed their profits have stagnated or even decreased, while the meatpacking companies — which buy the animals for slaughter, then package the meat to be sold at grocery stores — have benefited.

OPINION: Courts need to end Big Meat data sharing

Big Meat's secret weapon is a company called Agri Stats. Every week a bunch of Big Meat companies send Agri Stats a raft load of internal sales documents which Agri Stats merges into a industry wide sales report and sends back to subscribers. Agri Stats and those reports are at the heart of numerous lawsuits alleging that the reporting system allows Big Meat to participate in illegal anticompetitive activity.

Opinion: Tyson’s attempts to litigate COVID in federal courts a scam

All through 2020, Big Meat and the Trump White House abused immigrants and low-income people working at the nation's slaughterhouses, all but physically forcing them to work in a cauldron pot of coronavirus. The White House named meat packers essential workers while Big Meat failed to do enough to protect its on-line employees from COVID-19. Predictably, avoidable illness and death followed. Now comes litigation.

Opinion: OSHA and Big Meat should be investigated over COVID-19 response

Last month our worst fears were confirmed after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a pair of COVID-19 safety violation related fines against Big-Meat giants China WH-group owned Smithfield Foods and Brazilian-owned JBS. Mismanagement at Smithfield’s meat packing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota resulted in almost 13-hundred COVID-19 positive tests. Four plant workers died. JBS is equally culpable. At the JBS USA plant in Greeley, Colorado 290 workers tested positive for COVID-19. Six have died.

Opinion: Is DOJ throwing Big Poultry on the rotisserie?

About two years ago Maplevale Farms, Inc filed a civil lawsuit against the nation's largest chicken processors – Tyson Foods, Pilgrim's Pride, Perdue Farms, Koch Foods and Sanderson Farms are all plaintiffs – alleging the companies conspired together between 2008 and 2016 to fix poultry prices.

But as Dave Dickey writes, billions of dollars are at stake here. And things are not always as they seem.