WASHINGTON, D.C. – Ahead of the House Agriculture Committee’s hearing “An Examination of Price Discrepancies, Transparency, and Alleged Unfair Practices in Cattle Markets” where the chief executives of major U.S. meatpackers Cargill, Tyson, JBS, and National Beef Packing will be testifying, government watchdog Accountable.US released a new report on how these companies made nearly $13 billion in 2021 fiscal year profits, with most touting record years and the benefits of higher prices. Two major meatpackers, Tyson and JBS S.A., saw millions in profits even after they were involved with at least $384 million in fines and settlements over alleged price-fixing and have been widely criticized for worker mistreatment during the pandemic.
Accountable.US also released a new analysis of earnings data within two major food categories — grocery and restaurants — under the Labor U.S. Department’s Consumer Price Index (CPI). The report found that the top five companies within these two CPI categories all raised prices while collectively making at least $8.6 billion in extra profits during their 2021 fiscal year for a total of $38.7 billion. These same companies have also ramped up spending on stock buybacks and dividends by $11 billion year-over-year for a total of $37.6 billion.
There’s an unpalatable trend of big food and meatpacking companies using the pandemic as an excuse to profiteer at consumers’ expense. These companies would have us believe they were forced to raise prices so high just to keep up with outside costs. That’s hard to swallow considering last year top food corporations banked billions in extra profits, approved billions in new shareholder handouts, and compensated their executives by millions more. The big four meatpacking CEOs are all living high on the hog after reporting $13 billion in extra profits even after paying major fines and settlements for manipulating prices in recent years and mistreating workers.”
Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig
None of this adds up. The reality is these highly profitable corporations have had a choice all along, and they chose to fatten their bottom line rather than keep prices stable for everyday families."
Accountable.US president Kyle Herrig
Over the last several months, Accountable.US has documented how clear pandemic profiteering and corporate greed from industries including big oil, meat packing, shipping, trucking, retail, and railroad companies are making inflation and supply chain challenges worse for everyday consumers. Earlier this week, the group released a new analysis spotlighting 15 major corporations that have blamed labor costs for price increases in 2021 yet still managed to pad their executives’ compensation by substantial margins.
- FY 2021: Had the “most profitable year in its 156-year history,” with almost $5 billion in net income
- Owned by a billionaire family that siphons about 17% of the company’s profits each year and whose members saw their fortunes climb amid surging food prices
- 2021: CEO David MacLennan said prices would remain elevated in 2022
- 2020: Forbade some workers from wearing protective gear early in the pandemic
- October 2021: A congressional probe found nearly 4,700 infections and 25 employee deaths at Cargill plants as of January 2021, far more than previously reported
- In August 2021, Cargill agreed to the joint acquisition of Sanderson Farms, a move that would “form a new [company] representing about 15% of U.S. chicken production.”
- “‘Made record profits while actually selling less beef than before,’” according to a White House analysis
- February 2022: Its CEO Donnie King asked customers “‘to pay for inflation’”
- January 2021: Agreed to a $221.5 million price-fixing settlement over inflated chicken prices
- FY 2021: Its net income soared by 47% to over $3 billion as it spent over $700 million on shareholder handouts
- October 2021: A congressional investigation found Tyson plants to have the most COVID-19 infections and deaths of all major meatpackers, with nearly 30,000 infections and 151 deaths as of January 2021
- March 2022: Chief Financial Officer Guilherme Perboyre Cavalcanti said prices were “robust”
- FY 2021: Reported $4.15 billion in net income, a 345% increase from 2020
- Q4 2021: Credited 17.3% higher prices for higher net revenue, despite seeing volume decrease by 6%
- February 2022: Agreed to a $52.5 million U.S. beef price-fixing settlement
- 2020: Subsidiary Pilgrim’s Pride agreed to pay a $110 million Justice Department fine over allegedly rigging chicken contracts
- 2020-2021: Several former top executives and employees from its Pilgrim’s Pride subsidiary were federally indicted for price-fixing conspiracy and antitrust charges
- 2020: Faced a variety of worker complaints about COVID-19 safety
National Beef Packing Company
- FY 2021: Parent company Marfrig touted “its best results ever,” with North America operations setting “a series of new profitability records”
- FY 2021: Marfrig reported about $853 million* in net income and expanded its dividend plan to about $426 million,* representing about 58% of its FY 2021 profit
- October 2021: A congressional investigation found that 100% of National Beef Packing Company plants had COVID-19 infections, with nearly 2,500 infections and 6 deaths as of January 2021, far more than previously reported