OMAHA, Neb. — Meatpacking giant JBS has agreed to a $52.5 million settlement in a beef price-fixing lawsuit that some say supports their concerns about how the lack of competition in the industry affects prices.
Colorado-based JBS didn’t admit any wrongdoing as part of the settlement and a spokeswoman said the company will continue to defend itself.
According to the Associated Press, a federal judge is now reviewing the settlement and will rule later whether to approve it.
The giant beef processors have argued that supply and demand factors, not anticompetitive behavior, drive the price of beef and the amount ranchers receive for cattle, but the industry’s practices have been questioned by the White House and Congress.
The Justice Department has been investigating possible price fixing in the industry at least since 2020. The Biden administration has focused on finding ways to increase competition in the meat processing industry to help reduce food prices, and the USDA plans to invest $1 billion to help independent slaughterhouses expand, according to AP News.
On Thursday, the USDA and DOJ launched a new website to make it easier for farmers and ranchers to report any concerns about anticompetitive behavior in the industry.
In an interview with the Associated Press, Colin Woodall, the head of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association trade group, said the settlement reinforces the need for the Justice Department to wrap up its investigation.
“Cattle producers do not have years to wait for the government to determine whether there has been wrongdoing — we demand answers now,” Woodall said.