Four largest U.S. meatpackers’ share of cattle and hog purchases surged after 1980

Bar chart showing shares of the four largest U.S. meatpackers’ cattle and hog purchases in 1980, 1995, 2010, and 2019.

The meatpacking industry is highly concentrated, with large plants and few firms. Larger plants reduce processing costs and wholesale meat prices, but having fewer firms allows packers to reduce prices paid for livestock. Those tradeoffs—efficiency versus market power—have reemerged in policy debates.

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