Who was the primary force in concentrating the beef industry, eliminating competition, and reducing cattle producers share of the consumer beef dollar? Who led the elimination of half a million cattle producers, 80,000 independent feeders, and most of the small to mid-sized local/regional slaughter plants? During my presentation at the annual R-CALF convention, I asked the question, “How many of you have heard of Bob Peterson?” Very few, mostly those around my age, raised their hands. It’s not surprising considering its been 27 years since 1996, the year of the South Dakota Governors Conference, and when Bob Peterson was President and CEO of IBP, the nations biggest meatpacker.
My point in asking the question was to help people understand what happened to their markets and why the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has been so supportive of the big meatpackers fleecing of our ranchers and cow-calf producers.
The year 1996 was also the year we filed the antitrust lawsuit against IBP. The case finally made it to trial in 2004 with the jury awarding the cattlemen $1.28 billion. The trial judge reversed the jury verdict and made the cattlemen pay Tyson’s court costs. We lost the jury award and any hope of the injunctive relief that would have stopped the big meatpacker stealing.
Yes, I said Tyson. During the conference, Dr. William Heffernan warned Peterson, that even IBP, may not be big enough to compete with global conglomerates. He was right. Five years later, IBP, the largest beef packer in the world, sold to the biggest chicken producer, Tyson.
For some history on how we got here: