The meat packing industry in the US has come under the spotlight over recent weeks as food prices have increased in shops there.

It came to a head last week in a White House briefing in which the spokesperson said that “the Biden Harris Administration is taking bold action to enforce antitrust laws, boost competition in meat processing and push back on profiteering”.

The US meat processing industry is dominated by four key players – JBS, Tyson, Smithfield and NBPC, which are owned by Marfrig.

Between them, they control 80% of total processing capacity in the US and were forecast by the briefing to have combined aggregate net income of $12bn (€10.2bn) in 2021 based on results published for the first half of the year.

This is up from $7bn (€5.9bn) in 2020.

The administration is promising to take strong action to crack down on illegal price fixing and enforce antitrust laws.

Several US processors including JBS, Smithfield, Pilgrim’s Pride (owners of Moy Park in Northern Ireland) and Tyson have made settlements for antitrust issues over the past year.

The USDA is to invest $1.4bn (€1.2bn) in pandemic relief to a range of businesses and $500m (€423.7m) from the American Rescue Plan funds to support new entrants that will expand local and regional meat processing capacity.

Grants, loans and technical assistance will also be provided to assist new processors compete with the larger businesses and give farmers and ranchers more market options.