WASHINGTON – Lawmakers have questions regarding meatpackers’ decision to export meat products to China while at the same time warning of shortages of meat in the United States. Tyson Foods, JBS USA, Cargill and Smithfield Foods have until June 30 to provide answers.

Cargill, which doesn’t have a pork business in the US, only beef and turkey, and does not export beef or turkey to China, had no comment on the matter. 

In a letter to the chief executives of those companies, Senators Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker accused the companies of exporting “… massive amounts of pork and other meats to consumers in China while threatening the American public with an impending shortage of beef, pork, and chicken. All the while you put thousands of your workers in harm’s way to maintain production, dramatically increased prices for US consumers, and successfully lobbied the President to sign an executive order designating your plants as critical infrastructure that allowed them to continue operating in an unsafe fashion.”

The lawmakers included a list of 10 questions for the companies to answer, including how many tons of poultry, beef or pork the companies produced from March 1, 2020 to May 31, 2020 and how many tons of those item the companies exported to China during the same period.

“This pattern of behavior raises questions about whether you are living up to your commitments to the workers who produce your pork and beef; the communities in which you operate, and the nation’s consumers that rely on your products to feed their families,” the letter said. “It also raises questions about what, exactly, Smithfield meant when the company said that “[w]e have continued to run our facilities for one reason: to sustain our nation’s food supply during this pandemic,” and about how seriously Tyson takes its “responsibility to feed our country.””

Meat processors face intense scrutiny from federal agencies. The Department of Justice recently indicted four poultry company executives on charges of price-fixing. The US Department of Agriculture and DOJ are investigating the beef industry for alleged anti-competitive behavior; and processors have received withering criticism for how they handled outbreaks of coronavirus (COVID-19) among meat plant workers.