Joe Biden Just Called Out Meatpacking Plants In His State Of The Union Address

Food consumed President Joe Biden's first-ever State of the Union address in ways both seen and unseen. Even in the opening moments, as a stern-eyed Biden spoke of the bloodshed abroad caused by Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the specter of food prices lurked in the background. Russia exports more wheat than any other nation on Earth, per The New York Times. And as CNBC explains, Ukraine is the "Breadbasket of Europe." Its dire plight has far-reaching implications, as the impact of the war on wheat costs could ripple across continents. Biden talked of food lines and hard times, drawing parallels between the hardships wrought by the pandemic and the great lengths his father went to find work in times of rising food prices. Notably, he also used his bully pulpit to offer food for thought while revisiting his beef with meatpacking plants.

The president prefaced his remarks by reassuring his audience, "I am a capitalist." But he argued that the hunger for profit had to be tempered by competition: "Capitalism without competition is exploitation, it drives up profits — without competition is exploitation." This, he seemed to say, was the state of an industry dominated by meat giants: "Small businesses and family farmers and ranchers — I need not tell some of my Republican friends in those states. You have four basic meatpacking facilities. That is it. You play with them or you don't get the play at all and you pay a helluva lot more." His comments cut like a steak knife through bull. And it's not the first time 46th POTUS has picked a verbal bullfight with meat processors.

The meat of President Biden's criticism

As detailed by the White House Briefing Room blog, in January, the Biden administration named the four-headed beast that dominated the meat industry: Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS, and National Beef Packing. With an estimated "55-85% of the market for pork, beef, and poultry" under their control, they allegedly hog prosperity while leaving scraps for those lower on the food chain.

Allegedly, these companies charge too much and pay too little, actively contributing to the nation's skyrocketing meat prices while refusing to pay farmers fairly. The president has previously railed against this dynamic using some of the same barbed remarks he delivered during his State of the Union address. According to the Progressive Grocer, the critic-in-chief told a group of ranchers and farmers during a virtual gathering, "Capitalism without competition isn't capitalism — it's exploitation. That's what we're seeing in meat and poultry industries now."

Unsurprisingly, this didn't sit well with the Big Four. Speaking on behalf of the companies, the North American Meat Institute accused Biden of embracing a "tired approach" to discussing the predicament of meat prices, insisting that the president failed to address the burden imposed by labor shortages. While we haven't seen a response to the State of Union address (which presumably would also quote past complaints), we wouldn't be surprised if the companies bristled at the remarks.