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Meatpacking giant JBS to pay $52.5M settlement over beefed-up prices

JBS has beef plants in Omaha and Grand Island
Posted at 5:45 PM, Feb 03, 2022

OMAHA, Neb. (AP & KMTV) — Meatpacking giant JBS has agreed to a $52.5 million settlement in a beef price-fixing lawsuit that some say supports their concerns about how the lack of competition in the industry affects prices.

JBS is headquartered in Colorado but has meat processing plants in Omaha and Grand Island. The company didn’t admit to any wrongdoing as part of the settlement, and a spokeswoman said the company will continue to defend itself, including against future plaintiffs.

The giant beef processors have argued that supply and demand factors, not anticompetitive behavior, drive the price of beef and the amount ranchers receive for cattle, but the industry’s practices have been questioned by the White House and Congress. The settlement comes one month after President Joe Biden announced a new plan and $1 billion in funding for the meatpacking industry and ranchers, going as far to call the lack of competition "exploitation."

Reuters News reports that, "direct purchasers accused the defendants, which controlled an estimated 80% of U.S. fresh and frozen beef supply, of conspiring since 2015 to reduce slaughter volumes, creating a shortfall that smaller companies could not make up."

Three other meat processing giants have been named as defendants: Tyson Foods, Cargill Inc. and the National Beef Packing Co. The Justice Department has been investigating possible price-fixing in the industry at least since 2020.

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