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New rules expected to protect animals farmers against big companies

Cow of McNett Cattle in Augusta County.
Cow of McNett Cattle in Augusta County.(WHSV)
Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 6:25 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA COUNTY, Va. (WHSV) - The Biden administration is expected to announce new rules that would help protect farmers who raise animals against large meat processors.

The goal is to increase competition in agriculture and bring an overall boost to farmers’ earnings.

“They [meat packers] are making [up to a] $800 profit per animal slaughtered, and us as the farmer can only, contract or no contract, maybe squeak out [up to] $25 a head profit,” Austin McNett of McNett Cattle said.

McNett hopes the new rules will lead to more fair pricing.

“At least to have our opinions heard and our concerns heard... If we’re not making any money, how do they expect for us to keep growing beef?” McNett said. “When you start talking the price of the calf to buy it plus the input that it takes, then to have a dictated price on the end that is marginal profit or a break-even or even potentially a loss, it is very hard.”

He adds that doing so could help many within the industry.

“If the packers can be held accountable to have to pay more for what they’re buying instead of dictating the price at such a low margin, that would help the industry widely,” McNett said. “We’re tired as farmers just getting our feed out of the cattle. To see some good profit in these cattle would make it trickle down all the way from the farmer feeder to the cow calf operation, which we’re heavy in in Augusta County.”

The USDA also plans to review the definition of what it means for meat to be labeled a “Product of USA.” Right now, companies can use that label whenever meat is processed in the U.S. even if the animals were raised somewhere else.

We did reach out to meat processing companies, like Cargill, Tyson and Pilgrims for comment, but have not yet received a response on how these new rules would affect the industry.

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