The following tells the story of a steer, and also a story of the meatpacker/retailer cartel that captured the largest sector of our food system, while touting efficiencies and economies of scale. Since the early 1980’s when the big-four meatpackers decided to cooperate instead of compete, and antitrust cops went on vacation, nearly half our cattle producers have gone out of business, 87,000 cattle feeders are gone, and little is left of the small to medium sized meatpacker. Having gained control over the cattle markets, the big-four aligned themselves with our nation’s biggest retailers and food service companies in one of the most destructive and prolonged wealth mining operations in history.
Producers have lost around $1,500 per head of their share of the consumer beef dollar to the meatpacker/retailer cartel. Rural America is now living off the waste stream of the national economy via dollar stores on it’s way to third-world status.
After Iowa Beef Processors (IBP) implemented boxed beef around 1970, destroying the carcass trade, meat cutters took a 40% cut in wages, cattle producers received less for their cattle, and consumers got lower quality, higher priced, less safe beef.
USDA leadership and staff have been blind to the Husbandman message that is inscribed above the main entrance to their place of employment, and instead, have worked enthusiastically to clear the way for corporate control of our food system, the demise of family farm agriculture, and our nation’s loss of food security.
To be food secure, we must rebuild local/regional food systems, restore food safety, increase income at the farm and ranch gate, improve soil health, animal welfare, and worker well-being. And we must break out of the box: