White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki blamed corporate greed on Tuesday when asked about the cause of soaring meat prices in the United States.
The price index for meats, poultry, fish, and eggs has swelled 12.8% over the past year. For certain products, the increase is even more pronounced. The price of beef has soared in price 20.9% since December 2020, according to Department of Labor data.
Psaki passed the blame onto “meat conglomerates” that are taking advantage of the pandemic to gouge consumers at the grocery aisle. Psaki said:
The president thinks the way people across the country, American families, digest inflation is by price increases and if you look at industry to industry, it’s a little different. So, for example, the president, the secretary of Agriculture have both spoken to what we’ve seen as the greed of meat conglomerates. That is an area where when people go to the grocery store [and] are trying to buy a pound of meat, two pounds of meat, ten pounds of meat, the prices are higher. That is, in his view and the view of our secretary of Agriculture, because of, you could call it corporate greed, sure. You could call it jacking up prices during a pandemic. There are other areas where we’ve seen increases because of supply chain issues, and we’re seeing those increases around the world as it relates to gas prices, oil supply, and things along those lines. So I would say there are some areas where we have seen corporations benefit, profit from the pandemic, and certainly the president would agree with that component.
Jen Psaki blames increases in meat prices on "the greed of meat conglomerates." pic.twitter.com/NlSXwIcUTP
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Psaki’s answer echoed arguments put forward by Brian Deese, director of the White House National Economic Council, in a blog post last week. After the latest Labor Department data was released, the White House published an article by Deese blaming meat packers for the skyrocketing prices.
“The November Consumer Price Index data released this morning demonstrates that meat prices are still the single largest contributor to the rising cost of food people consume at home,” Deese wrote. “[J]ust four large conglomerates control approximately 55-85% of the market for pork, beef, and poultry, and these middlemen were using their market power to increase prices and underpay farmers, while taking more and more for themselves.”
The North American Meat Institute, an industry trade group, released a response to the blog post hitting the Biden administration for passing the blame for rising meat prices and covering for rampant inflation that has hit the U.S. economy on the heels of the federal government’s trillions of dollars-worth of aid packages over COVID-19.
“The White House Economic Council is again demonstrating its ignorance of agricultural economics and the fundamentals of supply and demand,” said Julie Anna Potts, the institute’s president and CEO. “This argument is simply a rinse and repeat of their September attempts to blame meat and poultry companies for inflation that is not limited to food, but is being felt across the economy.