Montana Attorney General Tim Fox has joined with other state Attorneys General in asking for help from U.S. Attorney General William Barr with giant meat processing plants that are defrauding meat producers and the public.

“80% of the beef processing in American is controlled by just four very large companies and with this kind of concentration, it is always fraught with problems,” Fox said. “Market concentration can really give rise to anti-competitive or anti-trust practices. The COVID-19 situation has further exacerbated that whole problem.”

Other state attorneys general have asked to join with Fox in going after these price gouging meat processors.

“A little over a week ago, I got a call from Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem because he heard we were doing some work in this area,” Fox said. “We got to talking and we decided it is time to get off the dime. We decided to send a request to Attorney General William Barr asking that the U.S. Department of Justice do a thorough investigation into these meat packers and their, what appears to be, anti-competitive practices.”

Fox said individual states don’t have the clout to force those companies to comply with the law.

“We believe that a civil investigation through the United States’ anti-trust laws would really be appropriate,” Fox said. “In our letter, we told the attorney general that we stand ready to help. Our office has already identified experts, put together market information, and have provided that information to the U.S. Department of Justice. They have a bigger hammer than we do.”

Fox said that in the end, consumers have not been able to realize the benefits that come from a competitive market.