Along with the now customary travails associated with the pandemic, readers of the national media are frequently treated to dire prophecies of protein deficiencies brought about by the great, impending meat shortage. Occasionally online readers are treated to images of empty meat cases along with the inaccurate pronouncement the Americans are paying more for meat than ever before. Furthermore it’s asserted that China by virtue of the fact it acquired Smithfield Foods plays a major role in meat production.
Fortunately, we are told, salvation is at hand if only the Congress would enact the PRIME Act thereby granting governors such as Cuomo, Whitmer, Murphy, and Pritzker a larger role in meat production vis-a-vis meat inspection. What could possibly go wrong?
Are American paying more for meat? The below charts would say otherwise. The charts reflect the data gathered from the wholesale prices paid for lean hogs, live cattle and poultry but over time they reflect the retail prices paid at the supermarket.
It looks like the price of live cattle peaked in late 2014.
Live hogs seem to have followed the same price line. But what about poultry?
It peaked last year. To verify these data for yourself please go here.
While Smithfield Food is a wholly owned subsidiary of WH Group of China it operates only in the United States under the Department of Agriculture regulation. The United States is an exporter of pork not an importer.
I genuinely admire Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky. He has been the loudest Republican voice in Congress to demand that Congressmen actually show up to vote for legislation rather than phoning it in as Speaker Nancy Pelosi wishes but on the PRIME Act we part company. While I generally favor granting more power to the states, the blue state governors and RINO Republicans in the images of Governors Dewine, Hogan and Holcomb have pretty much exhausted my trust. It should be stated the Rep. Massie does raise cattle, actually getting his hands dirty, and while this petty conflict of interest is in no way tantamount to the insider trading the members of Senate have recently indulged in it is nevertheless a conflict.
What would the PRIME Act do?
This bill expands the exemption of custom slaughtering of animals from federal inspection requirements.
Under current law, the exemption applies if the meat is slaughtered for personal, household, guest, and employee uses. The bill expands the exemption to include meat that is
- slaughtered and prepared at a custom slaughter facility in accordance with the laws of the state where the facility is located; and
- prepared exclusively for distribution to household consumers in the state or restaurants, hotels, boarding houses, grocery stores, or other establishments in the state that either prepare meals served directly to consumers or offer meat and food products for sale directly to consumers in the state.
The bill does not preempt any state law concerning (1) the slaughter of animals or the preparation of carcasses, parts thereof, meat and meat food products at a custom slaughter facility; or (2) the sale of meat or meat food products
The federal government has been inspecting ALL commercially processed meat since 1906. Many credit muckraking author Upton Sinclair and his novel The Jungle for providing President Theodore Roosevelt the insight, graphically illustrated to be sure, for the need of regulation. I haven’t read it since high school but you can borrow a copy here.
While it might be a bit much to expect meat processing to go back to 1906 at present there are no meat inspections at the state level. USDA inspectors are knowledgeable in veternary medicine. They know what makes a chicken sick. They are aware of cancer in farm animals. For a gory illustation of livestock cancers go here What state agencies have the personnel to inspect meat? Can New York do for meat inspection what it has done for nursing homes? Would a governor shut down all meat inspection therefore meat production in the event of a pandemic? The present USDA inspection program, if not perfect, has a remarkable track record. If it aint broke don’t fix it.
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