In the video above, American cattle rancher Shad Sullivan from North Texas is interviewed by host Patrick Bet-David about the future of the cattle and meat industry. In April 2020, Sullivan posted a YouTube video1 discussing how U.S. farmers are being forced to dump the food supply — plowing under vegetable crops, euthanizing millions of chickens, aborting sows and burying feeder pigs, and dumping milk by the hundreds of thousands of gallons.
Sullivan says officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture are also preparing farmers to depopulate cattle that are ready to harvest due to a “bottleneck created by the effects of COVID and the logistics therein.” Yet, while preparing U.S. cattle ranchers to cull their herds, the U.S. is actively importing beef from other countries.
The first shipment of beef from Namibia, for instance, arrived in the U.S. in April 2020, prompting Sullivan to ask, “Am I the only one that sees a problem in this? … We are importing beef from other countries. Beef that is less regulated than our beef, less safe, not as high-quality of product, and yet, it’s happening. At the same time, they’re preparing for us to euthanize our harvests.”2
USDA Email Told Farmers It Would Assist in Depopulation
Sullivan received an email from the USDA in April 2020, stating that it would help farmers to find alternative markets for their harvests, and if that couldn’t be done, state veterinarians and government officials would assist with culls, or depopulation, of the animals.
In May 2020, the USDA announced that its Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) had established a National Incident Coordination Center that would support producers who could not move their animals due to the closing of processing plants because of COVID-19.
“Going forward,” the announcement stated, “APHIS’ Coordination Center, State Veterinarians, and other state officials will be assisting to help identify potential alternative markets if a producer is unable to move animals, and if necessary, advise and assist on depopulation and disposal methods.”3
As processing plants shut down across the U.S. near the beginning of the pandemic, farmers were forced to euthanize hundreds of thousands of animals, a waste of meat during a time when many are struggling to find food, and a sentence that’s caused emotional and economic damage to farmers.
Because the processing is concentrated into a small number of large facilities, a U.S. government statement noted at the time, “[C]losure of any of these plants could disrupt our food supply and detrimentally impact our hardworking farmers and ranchers.”4
The government also cited statistics that closing one large beef processing plant could lead to a loss of more than 10 million servings of beef in a day, and noted that closing one processing plant can eliminate more than 80% of the supply of a given meat product, such as ground beef, to an entire grocery store chain.5 These highlight the glaring problems that come along with a highly concentrated and centralized food system.
Four Companies Control 85% of the Beef Cattle Supply Chain
Due to the allowance of acquisitions and mergers, four companies — Tyson, Cargill, JBS and National Beef, which is owned by Marfrig Global Foods — control the majority of the U.S. beef supply. These companies are multinational corporations that act as processors and distributors of beef. Decades ago, according to Sullivan, there may have been 800 different processors of beef, where now there are only four.
By taking away all competition, they’ve taken control of the entire industry. In April 2019, Tyson, Cargill, JBS and National Beef were accused of violating federal antitrust law by colluding to drive down the price of cattle they bought from ranchers while boosting retail prices, in order to boost profits.6
According to the lawsuit, which was filed by the Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF), the companies “engaged in tactics — including purchasing fewer cattle than a competitive market would otherwise demand and running their processing plants at less than available capacity” — that had the end result of creating surpluses in the cattle market but shortages in the wholesale beef market.7
“There’s an oligarchy of power and control at the top of the chain,” Sullivan said, “and that trickles down to you … They are able to eliminate competition in the United States while bringing in cheaper, lower quality meat from other countries.” In 2020, the U.S. imported beef from at least 19 countries, including Nicaragua, Japan, Croatia, Lithuania and Chile.