Quarles praises legislators for supporting meat price investigation

Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles
Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles

FRANKFORT, Ky. — Agriculture Commissioner Dr. Ryan Quarles praised a bipartisan group of legislators for joining his efforts with Attorney General Daniel Cameron in asking the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate possible anticompetitive practices in the beef packing sector.

“I am grateful to the bipartisan group of legislators who have joined the Attorney General and me in asking the Department of Justice to keep a watchful eye on suspect price disparities between the price of beef at the farm level and at the grocery store,” Quarles said. “It is critical Kentucky’s constitutional officers have the support from the General Assembly so we can have a united front on issues facing Kentucky families. I thank Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Paul Hornback and House Agriculture Chairman Richard Heath for their leadership.”

“Kentucky’s cattle producers deserve answers about why they are continuing to make less, even as the price of beef increases,” said Cameron. “I’m appreciative of the members of the General Assembly, Chairman Hornback, and Chairman Heath for forming this bipartisan coalition and joining Commissioner Quarles and me in asking the Department of Justice to investigate potential market manipulation on behalf of Kentuckians.”

The letter, issued by a group of Kentucky House and Senate Republicans and Democrats, reiterated the need for confidence in the beef cattle market.

“We have heard from our constituents across the Commonwealth about the wide disparity between the price of cattle and the price of processed beef,” the legislators wrote. “Some of us are cattlemen ourselves and have personally witnessed this disparity.”

On May 15, Quarles and Cameron sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General William Barr asking the DOJ to look at possible price-fixing in the beef cattle industry. The letter noted that, despite steady consumer demand for beef, the prices paid to Kentucky’s cattle producers have declined, suggesting the presence of possible market manipulation and other anticompetitive practices. As a result, Kentuckian consumers are paying more for beef while hardworking Kentucky farmers are making less during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to a report from Axios on May 26, the DOJ began investigating the allegations in late May.

Kentucky is the largest beef cattle state east of the Mississippi River, with more than 38,000 beef cattle farms in the state.