Supply Chain Shortages In The Meat And Poultry Industries

By Nathan A. Beaver, Nicholas R. Johnson, Foley & Lardner LLP.

With Thanksgiving fast approaching, you have probably heard that there is a turkey shortage1 – brought about by a combination of rising costs for feed and fuel, continued labor shortages, and – if that were not enough –a virulent strain of avian flu decimating turkey flocks across the U.S.

Although industries across the board have felt the effects of supply chain disruptions brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, the meat and poultry industry has been particularly hard-hit. So much so that the Biden Administration, in concert with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), has moved forward with regulatory actions aimed at easing the supply bottleneck. Whether they will have the intended effect remains to be seen.

In July 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order on Promoting Competition in the American Economy (the Executive Order).2 The Executive Order directs 72 different actions across the federal government, including several rulemaking directives to the USDA aimed at increasing competition within the meat and poultry industry. Among other things, the Executive Order directs the USDA to issue new rules defining when meat can bear “Product of USA” labels, to address perceived loopholes in the current rules, and to issue new rules under the Packers and Stockyards Act. Following the Executive Order, the USDA has made progress on these new rules, and recently announced new initiatives to ramp up antitrust enforcement in the meat industry.

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