Why are the meat packers getting high prices for the beef, but we ranchers aren't getting high prices for our cows? That's a question that I've heard a lot here in Montana, but especially during the COVID-19 shutdowns when fresh beef was disappearing from grocery store shelves due to consumer demand.

Major cattle groups, and politicians on both sides of the aisle here in Montana have called for investigations of the major meat packing companies. But is there a more free-market alternative that we should be looking at?

One piece of legislation that is getting attention is the PRIME Act by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY). The Tri-State Livestock News reports, "The bill would loosen regulations to allow meat such as beef, pork or lamb from custom kill plants (not state or federally-inspected) to be sold to consumers, restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, and grocery stores."

Daren Bakst with the Heritage Foundation weighed in with a guest opinion column in The Hill. He says, "Congress needs to knock down these barriers that hurt farmers and American families." Here's more:

These reforms may not have an immediate impact during the pandemic. But they would change market dynamics, create more options for farmers and consumers, and increase meat-processing capacity. They would also help create a meat supply system that is better positioned to address a possible second wave of COVID-19 or future pandemics. Today, the entire structure of the meat-processing industry is a reflection of an inflexible federal regulatory system. But tomorrow, through these proposed reforms, the industry would better reflect market forces and be more responsive to the needs of Americans.


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