Four packing/slaughter companies process 84% of all cattle in the USA.  These giants are able to control the price paid to cow/calf producers due to the sheer numbers of livestock under their command. 

Corporate giants use various techniques to manage the entire livestock market:

  • Forward contracting - Offering to buy livestock at a price not set until some future time. Frequently, no base price is agreed upon and rancher/feeder risks getting a lower price.
  • No public open market sales - If big packers are able to keep sales private, the market prices and trends cannot be made available to producers to see if they are getting a fair and consistent price.

The Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 was passed to correct anti-trust activities which were rampant in that time in the meats packing business.

Since 1990 several attempts have been made to break this market control or Captive Supply that is affecting producers as well as consumers