The Battle to Control the U.S. Meat Market

It's no secret that most of the meat consumed in the United States comes from large conglomerates whose focus on efficiency and large scale production seldom take environmental or animal welfare issues into account. According to Grist, this tight-knit circle of "meat titans" could get even smaller with the possible takeover of Smithfield by the Brazilian meat-packing company JBS. This would result in just three companies—Tyson, Cargill, and JBS—exerting immense control over what animals Americans consume, as well as how those animals are treated.

Since the meat market began its dramatic arc of consolidation three decades ago, farmers have had to choose between scaling up, to make up on volume what they were losing on price; or exit the business altogether. As a result, millions of small, diversified farms have closed down their animal-raising operations over the past thirty years, and surviving farms have mostly scaled up, specialized in one species, and placed that species by the thousands in vast confinements known as concentrated animal feedlot operations, or CAFOs. These fragrant, teeming spaces are notorious sources of pollution and social decay in rural areas.

It's not a done deal yet. Head to Grist for more information on what role the Department of Justice could play—and what might happen next.

Photo (cc) by Flickr user Carlossg via Grist