It is amazing that meat can sometimes be difficult to buy when there are so many cattle in America.
Costco, Wegmans, and Kroger restricted purchases of beef at the outbreak. There were hundreds of Wendy’s locations that ran out of hamburgers.
“How the hell can this be?” says Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., in my Video of the Week. “They (Wendy’s) were out of hamburger, yet you could see cattle from the drive-thru!”
Because of the stupidity of government regulations, it happens.
Massie has a Kentucky farm. “I’d rather deal with cattle than congressmen,” he jokes. “At least (cattle) exhibit learned behavior.”
Politians often do not.
“You’re born with the right to eat what you want,” says Massie. “Why is the government getting in the middle and saying, ‘No, you can’t buy that’?”
“To keep you safe,” I push back.
“They’re not keeping you safe,” Massie responds. “They’re keeping you away from good, healthy food.”
American meat regulation began after activist Upton Sinclair worked undercover at a meatpacking plant and then wrote the book “The Jungle.” It became a huge bestseller. Sinclair wanted to spread socialism. His book was a landmark because it exposed unsanitary conditions at packing plants, such as rat infestations or rotting carcasses of meat, and made Sinclair famous.
In 1906, Congress enacted a law requiring that all meat sales be approved by the United States Department of Agriculture.
What was involved in the inspection? An absurd technique called “poke and sniff.” To find tainted meat, federal bureaucrats stuck little spikes into carcasses and then smelled the spikes.
They would order the re-use of any meat that smelled rotten.
This was an absurd process. Inspectors repeatedly used the exact same spikes, putting them in multiple animals. The inspectors sometimes spread diseases from one carcass by poking at it.
Governments can do some pretty ridiculous things and regulators will continue to do them once they get started. The feds didn’t stop “poke and sniff” until the late 1990s.
Today, USDA inspectors do a better job. They check for bacteria. Many small businesses can’t afford to go through the lengthy and costly inspection.
The result, complained President Joe Biden recently, is too much market concentration: “Four big corporations control more than half the markets in beef, pork and poultry!”
He has a solution: give your tax money away to smaller meatpackers.
Of course, these regulations and subsidies can increase market concentration.
“The bigger the government, the bigger the corporations,” Massie points out. “People who don’t like big corporations haven’t figured that out.”
It was market concentration which caused shortages in meat when some large meat processing plants were shut down by COVID infection at the start of the pandemic.
“We made our food supply brittle,” says Massie. “One small disruption throws the whole thing off.”
Ranchers that couldn’t access a federally licensed slaughterhouse were forced to kill their livestock when processors stopped operating. They would have been able go to the local processor.
Massie visits his cattle one-on-one. He can then inspect the facilities. He can inspect the state-approved slaughterhouse.
Massie, and the other ranchers processing their cattle there, may not be able to sell steaks because it’s not USDA-certified. However, he can give it to your or make it for you. However, he cannot sell it.
Massie proposed a new law, the PRIME Act. It would permit farmers to sell pork processed in state approved slaughterhouses and not be influenced by federal authorities.
“You’re self-dealing,” I tell him. “Just trying to help yourself.”
“I’ve got 50 cattle,” he replies. “This is the most inefficient self-dealing any politician has ever engaged in.”
Massie claims he is doing this because Americans should have the right to eat what they want.
“It boggles my mind why Washington, D.C., needs to be involved in a transaction between me … and a customer who’s my neighbor.”