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Unformatted text preview: ast twenty years, the rancher’s share of every retail dollar spent on beef has fallen from 63 cents to 46 cents. The four major
meatpacking companies now control about 20 percent of the live cattle in the United States through “captive supplies” — cattle that are
either maintained in company-owned feedlots or purchased in advance through forward contracts. When cattle prices start to rise, the large
meatpackers can flood the market with their own captive supplies, driving prices back down. They can also obtain cattle through
confidential agreements with wealthy ranchers, never revealing the true price being paid. ConAgra and Excel operate their own gigantic
feedlots, while IBP has private arrangements with some of America’s biggest ranchers and feeders, including the Bass brothers, Paul Engler,
and J. R. Simplot. Independent ranchers and feedlots now have a hard time figuring out what their cattle are actually worth, let alone finding
a buyer for them at the right price. On any given day in the nation’s regional cattle markets,...
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- Spring '08