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A Review of Causes for and Consequences of Economic Concentration in the U.S. Meatpacking Industry

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  • Ward, Clement E.

Abstract

Clear and continuing changes in the structure of the U.S. meatpacking industry have significantly increased economic concentration since the mid-1970s. Concentration levels are among the highest of any industry in the United States, and well above levels generally considered to elicit non-competitive behavior and result in adverse economic performance, thereby triggering antitrust investigations and subsequent regulatory actions. Many agricultural economists and others deem this development paradoxical. While several civil antitrust lawsuits have been filed against the largest meatpacking firms, there have been no major antitrust decisions against those firms and there have been no significant federal government antitrust cases brought against the largest meatpacking firms over the period coincident with the period of major structural changes. The structural changes in the U.S. meatpacking industry raise a number of questions. What is the nature of the changes and what economic factors caused them? What evidence is there that economic behavior has shifted from competitive to non-competitive? What evidence is there that structural and behavioral changes have resulted in adverse economic performance? This paper reviews the available data and information pertaining to these questions and provides some insight into the answers. Structural changes are reviewed, along with discussion of one major causal factor for the changes. Then, numerous studies conducted over the past twenty years are reviewed, i.e., studies carried out at different times with alternative approaches and varying levels of data aggregation.

Suggested Citation

  • Ward, Clement E., 2002. "A Review of Causes for and Consequences of Economic Concentration in the U.S. Meatpacking Industry," CAFRI: Current Agriculture, Food and Resource Issues, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society, issue 03.
  • Handle: RePEc:ags:cafric:45696
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Clement E. Ward, 1990. "Meatpacking plant capacity and utilization: Implications for competition and pricing," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 6(1), pages 65-73.
    2. Bruce W. Marion & Donghwan Kim, 1991. "Concentration change in selected food manufacturing industries: The influence of mergers vs. internal growth," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 7(5), pages 415-431.
    3. Azzeddine Azzam, 1996. "Testing the Monopsony-Inefficiency Incentive for Backward Integration," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 78(3), pages 585-590.
    4. John R. Schroeter & Azzeddine M. Azzam, & Mingxia Zhang, 2000. "Measuring Market Power in Bilateral Oligopoly: The Wholesale Market for Beef," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 66(3), pages 526-547, January.
    5. Schroeter, John R. & Azzam, Azzeddine M., 1999. "Econometric Analysis of Fed Cattle Procurement in the Texas Panhandle," Staff General Research Papers Archive 11365, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    6. Ward, Clement E., 1984. "An Empirical Study Of Competition In The Price Discovery Process For Slaughter Lambs," Western Journal of Agricultural Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 9(01), July.
    7. Clement E. Ward, 1993. "Comparative analysis of cattle slaughtering and fabricating costs," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 9(5), pages 441-451.
    8. Kyle W. Stiegert & Azzeddine Azzam & B. Wade Brorsen, 1993. "Markdown Pricing and Cattle Supply in the Beef Packing Industry," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 75(3), pages 549-558.
    9. MacDonald, James M. & Ollinger, Michael & Nelson, Kenneth E. & Handy, Charles R., 2000. "Consolidation In U.S. Meatpacking," Agricultural Economics Reports 34021, United States Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service.
    10. Schroeter, John R, 1988. "Estimating the Degree of Market Power in the Beef Packing Industry," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 70(1), pages 158-162, February.
    11. Ronald W. Ward & Thomas Stevens, 2000. "Pricing Linkages in the Supply Chain: The Case for Structural Adjustments in the Beef Industry," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1112-1122.
    12. James M. MacDonald & Michael E. Ollinger, 2000. "Scale Economies and Consolidation in Hog Slaughter," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 82(2), pages 334-346.
    13. Schroeter, John R. & Azzam, Azzeddine M., 1990. "Measuring Market Power in Multi-Product Oligopolies: The U.S. Meat Industry," Staff General Research Papers Archive 11112, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    14. Richard J. Sexton, 2000. "Industrialization and Consolidation in the U.S. Food Sector: Implications for Competition and Welfare," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 82(5), pages 1087-1104.
    15. Donald W. Anderson & Brian C. Murray & Jackqueline L. Teague & Richard C. Lindrooth, 1998. "Exit from the Meatpacking Industry: A Microdata Analysis," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 80(1), pages 96-106.
    16. Azzeddine Azzam, 1998. "Captive Supplies, Market Conduct, and the Open-Market Price," American Journal of Agricultural Economics, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association, vol. 80(1), pages 76-83.
    17. Ward, Clement E. & Koontz, Stephen R. & Schroeder, Ted C., 1998. "Impacts From Captive Supplies On Fed Cattle Transaction Prices," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 23(02), December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Bullock, J. Bruce, 2003. "Performance Evaluation Of The U.S. Hog Slaughter Industry," Working Papers 26044, University of Missouri Columbia, Department of Agricultural Economics.
    2. Chanjin Chung & Emílio Tostão, 2009. "Nonparametric Estimation of Oligopsony Power in First-Price Auction," Journal of Agricultural Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 60(2), pages 318-333.
    3. Tostao, Emilio & Chung, Chanjin & Brorsen, B. Wade, 2006. "Integrating the Structural Auction Approach and Traditional Measures of Market Power," 2006 Annual meeting, July 23-26, Long Beach, CA 21244, American Agricultural Economics Association (New Name 2008: Agricultural and Applied Economics Association).
    4. Brester, Gary W. & Marsh, John M. & Atwood, Joseph A., 2009. "Evaluating the Farmer’s-Share-of-the-Retail-Dollar Statistic," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 34(2), August.
    5. Xia, Tian & Sancewich, Brian, 2012. "Retail Markets and Buyer Power in Agricultural Procurements," 2012 Annual Meeting, August 12-14, 2012, Seattle, Washington 124929, Agricultural and Applied Economics Association.
    6. Blank, Steven C. & Saitone, Tina L. & Sexton, Richard J., 2014. "Seller-Offered Forward Contracts: An Additional Benefit to Cattle Producers from Satellite Video Auctions," 2014 Annual Meeting, February 1-4, 2014, Dallas, Texas 162323, Southern Agricultural Economics Association.
    7. Blank, Steven C. & Saitone, Tina L. & Sexton, Richard J., 2016. "Calf and Yearling Prices in the Western United States: Spatial, Quality, and Temporal Factors in Satellite Video Auctions," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 41(3), September.
    8. Marsh, John M. & Brester, Gary W., 2004. "Wholesale-Retail Marketing Margin Behavior in the Beef and Pork Industries," Journal of Agricultural and Resource Economics, Western Agricultural Economics Association, vol. 29(01), April.
    9. Hornung, Jonathan T. & Ward, Clement E., 2005. "Positive Market Effects from a Meatpacking Plant Opening: Perceptions and Reality," CAFRI: Current Agriculture, Food and Resource Issues, Canadian Agricultural Economics Society, issue 06.
    10. Jared G. Carlberg & Robert J. Hogan & Clement E. Ward, 2009. "Game theory application to Fed Cattle procurement in an experimental market," Agribusiness, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 25(1), pages 56-69.

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