90.5 WESA, Pittsburgh’s NPR News Station Reports on Cyberattacks on the Food Industry, Quotes Moss on the Role of the Beef Packing Cartel

AAI President Diana Moss talked with NPR about the effects of high concentration on destabilizing food supply chains and increasing their susceptibility to outside shocks. The article The Food Industry May Be Finally Paying Attention To Its Weakness To Cyberattacks appeared on July 5, 2021.

From the article:

Other longtime critics of the meat industry, such as Diana Moss, president of the American Antitrust Institute, are drawing another lesson from the JBS attack. Moss says the industry is too concentrated in the hands of too few companies, so a problem in just one company can disrupt supplies for millions of consumers.

“What we have, in the meat supply chain, is a cartel,” she says. Just four companies, including JBS, slaughter about 85% of the country’s cattle that are raised for beef. Those companies operate giant, centralized slaughterhouses. Moss says a small number of companies also dominate chicken production, flour milling and other kinds of food processing.

“When you have only a few firms, in this critical midstream part of the supply chain — processing, manufacturing — the supply chain becomes very unstable. It lacks resiliency and is very subject to shocks to the system,” she says.

The biggest recent shock was the COVID-19 pandemic when the coronavirus spread rapidly among workers at meatpacking plants. Hundreds of workers died. Companies were forced to suspend operations at some of the largest processing plants, leaving many ranchers and pork farmers with no place to take their animals.