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Sen. Kevin Cramer, a Republican from North Dakota, argued on Tuesday that there is a systemic problem with the nation's supply chain that is much larger than the current shortage of meat, as meatpacking plants are forced to shut down or scale back on workers amid the coronavirus pandemic.
“Like so many things in our COVID-19 pandemic, it also exposed a larger problem, a real supply chain vulnerability once again,” the senator told “America’s Newsroom.”
He said the country is facing a meat shortage, but it's understandable given the "extraordinary" situation. Some grocery stores have begun putting a limit on how many packages of meat each customer can purchase.
Meanwhile, due to outbreaks of the coronavirus, several meat manufacturing facilities across North America have closed down, Forbes reported.
This has reportedly led to meat shortages in certain areas. Meat suppliers are also dealing with the loss of restaurant orders and increased demand for safety equipment at their facilities, which has reportedly put America’s food supply chain under immense strain.
Cramer said that 80 percent of the meat in the United States is processed by four companies.
“Two of those companies are foreign-owned. One is the largest pork processing facility in the country, Smithfield, is Chinese-owned," he said, "JBS is Brazilian-owned. So you see not only a concentration of the processing into very large companies, but you also see the foreign ownership and the vulnerabilities that brings.”
Cramer said that he is calling for the Department of Justice to investigate suspected price-fixing and possible antitrust violations with just a few companies controlling the supply chain.
“You’re seeing, in my view ... some games being played with both the pandemic and the vulnerability of our supply chain in this huge concentration of meatpacking,” Cramer said.
“What we want to see is [if] there are antitrust violations here. There is something that doesn’t make sense when the price of the critter goes down but the price of the end product goes up and the same entities control the entire range of the supply chain up and downstream,” Cramer said.
"When you see the price going down to the farmer and rancher but going up to the consumer, that shows something much more severe than a shortage of meat processing."
Fox News' Michael Hollan contributed to this report.