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Food

Feds take aim at high meat costs, but for the long range

The USDA has started funding the startup of more processors in hopes of curbing prices through competition. The program is one of several revealed by the White House with implications for restaurants.
Biden wants more competition among processors. / Photograph: Shutterstock

A long-range federal effort to permanently bring down the wholesale costs of meat and poultry is about to be put into action, the Biden administration revealed Monday.

The plan calls for fostering competition in the highly concentrated beef, pork and poultry processing industries by funding the startup of rivals to the four companies that currently control what President Biden says is 80% of the nation’s meat supply. He indicated during a meeting Monday of his White House Competition Council that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is beginning the distribution of the millions of dollars that have been earmarked to create more “middlemen” between growers and wholesale buyers.

The money will be provided in the form of grants.

“I’m expecting this council to build on this momentum and deliver more concrete results by the next time we meet,” the president said, as indicated in a transcript provided by the White House.

The effort to bring down meat costs was one of several reviewed initiatives with implications for the restaurant business.

The president noted that the council was successful in its campaign to pressure airlines into providing free meals and lodging for passengers whose flights are severely delayed. Prior to the push from the U.S. Department of Transportation, only one carrier provided that aid. Now, the White House said, nine of the Top 10 airlines have agreed to adopt that assistance as standard policy.

Members of the council reported that they’ve made progress in the White House’s goal of eliminating non-compete clauses in labor contracts, a defense used by one-third of the nation’s companies to avoid losing talent to a direct rival. Non-compete agreements are now being limited or eliminated in labor agreements of all sorts, including those for low-wage workers, the White House said.

It repeated the president’s goal of ultimately having the Federal Trade Commission outlaw or severely limit non-compete provisions.

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