Organization for Competitive Markets: Latest Beef Recall Exposes Illusion of Choice

posted October 8, 2018

This past week, almost seven million pounds of JBS beef were recalled after 57 people in 16 states were sickened by Salmonella poisoning. No surprise here. Just last year, JBS was caught exporting rotten beef worldwide and trying to cover up the stench using cancer-causing acid products.

The latest JBS tainted meat scandal not only continues to ring alarm bells about the safety of JBS beef, but it also shows how few choices consumers actually have in the market. The beef industry is so concentrated that a whopping 82% of the U.S. beef market is controlled by just four corporations. Two of those corporations, JBS and Marfrig, are Brazilian. This recent JBS recall has reportedly impacted hundreds of products under at least thirteen brand names, all processed at the JBS Tolleson plant. But it’s really all JBS beef regardless of the brand name on the package.

As has been reported, the following brands processed at the JBS facility have been recalled due to Salmonella contamination: La Herencia, Four Star, 5 Star Beef, Kroger, Cedar River Farms, Cedar River Farms Natural, Comnor Perfect Choice, Gourmet Burger, Grass Run Farms Natural, JBS Generic, Showcase, thinkpure, and WalMart.

A lack of transparency makes the situation even more alarming. Because our food system is so consolidated and globalized, consumers can no longer trust where their meat purportedly comes from. Due to a U.S. government labeling loophole, global corporations can import meat into the U.S. and label it “Product of U.S.A.” even if the live animal never set foot on U.S. soil. Several of the brands which are subject to the recall, including Showcase Premium, tout that they are USA products. Kroger goes so far as to suggest it offers “high quality meat and seafood. From local sourced meat to wild fish…”

It gets worse. If ratified by Congress, the new NAFTA trade agreement will water down the health and safety standards for south American beef coming into the U.S. through Mexico. The new trade deal was also a missed opportunity for the Trump administration to reinstate mandatory Country of Origin Labeling so U.S. cattle producers could differentiate their beef in the marketplace and consumers could choose to support them.

It seems like cattle producers and consumers just can’t win.