R-CALF USA last week sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting that it block the proposed merger of Brazilian-owned JBS S.A. and Pilgrim's Pride Corporation.

JBS is owner of the Swift packing plant in Grand Island.

It is the largest beef packer in the world and has rapidly been expanding globally, as well as in the United States, in the past several years. In 2007, JBS purchased Swift & Co., then the nation's third-largest beef packer. In 2008, JBS purchased Smithfield Beef Group and attempted to purchase National Beef Packing Co. In 2008, the Justice Department found the acquisition of National Beef Packing Co. would lessen competition among packers in their purchase of cattle, as is critical to ensure competitive prices for the nation's hundreds of thousands of ranchers.

R-CALF USA contends that the proposed acquisition by JBS of Pilgrim's Pride would create the same problem.

"The demand and price for cattle is influenced by the supply and price of competing proteins such as pork and poultry, and prices received by R-CALF USA members for their cattle are particularly susceptible to increased poultry supplies," said R-CALF USA CEO Bill Bullard. "We estimate that JBS' share of fed cattle packing capacity in the U.S. is now over 25 percent, and with the acquisition of the vertically integrated Pilgrim's Pride -- which controls over 20 percent of U.S. poultry production -- JBS could further manipulate the competing protein market in the United States."

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