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While Meatpacking Companies Reap Big Profits, Cattle Ranchers Struggle

Grocery store beef prices are rising. The rancher’s share is falling. And the companies that dominate the highly-concentrated meatpacking industry are making a killing.

Shad Sullivan has stopped paying for cable TV, yearly vacations and trips to movie theaters. He’s contemplated ending his health insurance, even though he needs it for his chronic bone marrow cancer.

A rancher in Olney, Texas, Sullivan, 47, has cut costs as producers like him have felt squeezed by the beef market. 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.