U.S. senators propose FTC investigate beef price fixing

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren and Mike Rounds on Thursday introduced a bipartisan resolution asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate beef companies for potential price fixing.

It is the latest effort by politicians to hold meat companies accountable for high food prices, which critics blame in part on U.S. beef production being controlled by just four large companies.

The senators invoked a 1914 act that authorizes the president or Congress to direct the FTC to investigate alleged antitrust violations. The rule has not been used since the 1920s.

Four companies slaughtered about 85% of U.S. grain-fattened cattle that were made into steaks, beef roasts and other cuts of meat for consumers in 2018, according to the most recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

The big four processors are: Cargill, Tyson Foods Inc (TSN), Brazil-based JBS SA, and National Beef Packing Co.

The companies did not immediately respond to request for comment but have previously denied consolidation drives up prices.

The Department of Justice has already been conducting an investigation into price fixing in the chicken-processing industry.

Angela Huffman, co-founder and vice president of policy and advocacy group Farm Action, which endorsed the resolution, said Congress should use every possible tool to stop monopoly abuses.

"We are excited that a bipartisan team is reaching back in history and dusting off this tool. The downside is that it is a long path to make change."

(Reporting by Leah Douglas; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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