How industry consolidation affects you: meat

Buying some steaks or pork chops for dinner tonight? If you’re buying a name brand at a supermarket, chances are it’s coming from one of the four major players in each market segment.

As of 2007, the four biggest beef packers in the U.S. supply more than 83% of our total supply, with Tyson and Cargill owning the majority. That’s right: more than half of America’s beef comes from one of two meat suppliers. Swift & Co. and National Beef Packing Co are three-four but their combined total is barely more than Cargill’s alone.

The same consolidation exists in the pork packing industry, although Smithfield Foods is the leader, with 26% of the market. The top four players control two-thirds of the market and include—surprise!—Tyson, Swift and Cargill.

These five companies are providing most of our protein nowadays, which makes the locavore movement just a bit more interesting. (Source)

This is the latest in a series of summaries of industries whose corporate consolidation has led to a small number of players controlling the majority of the market, creating oligopolies in the mass market. Previously