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America’s beef industry is in certain respects even more consolidated than other animal industries. Some 84% of beef slaughter is controlled by four companies: Tyson, JBS, Cargill, and National Beef. But concentration in the beef industry looks different than in other animal agriculture production. Cows have only one calf each year, rather than the many chicks or piglets born by hens and sows. And it often takes more than a year before this calf grows big enough for slaughter. These characteristics mean that cattle farming is still largely unsuited for the many of the forms of vertical integration that now define chicken and hog farming. To go to our Beef page, click here.

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Americans eat a lot of chicken, more in fact than any other meat. The U.S. produces nearly 9 billion chickens for meat – “broilers” – each year. Farmers also raise another 270 million chickens each year for egg production. But this large-scale production also comes at a great cost. Both the broiler and egg industries are highly concentrated, and among all livestock farming, the industrial concentration of chicken and egg production is widely regarded as perhaps the worst for the farmer, the worker, the animal, the eater, and the environment. To go to our Chicken page, click here.

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Milk is a quintessentially American kitchen staple and plays a fundamental role in our national diet. Dairy farming has long been a staple of our agricultural economy, with small dairies occupying a sentimental place in the American imagination. But over the past century, dairy farming has changed dramatically, from a market comprised of small producers to an increasingly consolidated, corporate industry. To go to our Dairy page, click here.

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Photo by Wilson Ring/Associated Press.

 

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In 2015, the American egg industry produced about 90 billion shell eggs. Just over half of shell eggs go directly to retail, and the rest are further processed for food service. Despite being one of the easier farm businesses to enter, due to low start-up costs, the egg industry also has become concentrated in recent years.  In 2014, the four largest egg producers—Cal-Maine Foods, Rose Acre Farms, Rembrandt Enterprises, and Daybreak Foods—controlled just over 30% of laying hens. Egg production is also concentrated regionally with some 44% of production located in just 5 states—Iowa, Ohio, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Texas. To go to our Eggs page, click here.

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Photo by Wilson Ring/Associated Press.

 

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Today, just four meatpackers—Smithfield, Tyson, JBS, and Cargill—control 65% of the U.S. pork slaughterhouse business. But this figure only hints at the real level of concentration in the industry. In many parts of the country, farmers have only one or two packers nearby to sell to. Further, the giants are increasingly taking over the task of breeding, raising, and fattening the hogs: lines of business traditionally performed by independent farmers. To go to our Pork page, click here.

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Photograph by Nicole Neily—Getty Images