In this sweeping interactive report, The Guardian and Food and Water Watch, both 11th Hour Project grantees, investigate the hyper-corporate consolidation of our food system. The article is part of The Guardian’s “Our Unequal Earth: Food” series.

The report found that for 85 percent of the groceries analyzed, four firms or fewer controlled more than 40 percent of the market share. The article also said:

[A] few powerful transnational companies dominate every link of the food supply chain: from seeds and fertilizers to slaughterhouses and supermarkets to cereals and beers.

The size, power and profits of these mega companies have expanded thanks to political lobbying and weak regulation which enabled a wave of unchecked mergers and acquisitions. This matters because the size and influence of these mega-companies enables them to largely dictate what America’s 2 million farmers grow and how much they are paid, as well as what consumers eat and how much our groceries cost.

It also means those who harvest, pack and sell us our food have the least power: at least half of the 10 lowest-paid jobs are in the food industry. Farms and meat processing plants are among the most dangerous and exploitative workplaces in the country.

Overall, only 15 cents of every dollar we spend in the supermarket goes to farmers. The rest goes to processing and marketing our food.

The report comes on the heels of the Biden administration’s executive order on competition released on July 9. The implications for agriculture are significant, including:

  • Requiring the U.S. Agricultural Department (USDA) to issue a report on the impact of market concentration in seeds and other agriculture inputs, and requiring a joint report from the Federal Trade Commission and USDA about the effects of market concentration in the retail grocery sector;
  • Stopping meat processors from exploiting and underpaying animal farmers as well as adopting anti-retaliation protections for farmers who speak out about bad practices;
  • Reinstating “Product of USA” labels so that consumers have accurate, transparent labels that enable them to choose products made here; and 
  • Directing USDA to develop a plan to increase opportunities for farmers to access markets and receive a fair return.

Our grantees, such as the Missouri Rural Crisis Center (MRCC), continue to organize for a food system that provides more reasonable profits to small-scale farmers. In a statement, MRCC said the executive order was “the first necessary step towards an open, fair and competitive market in support of family farmers, rural communities, workers, consumers and our natural resources.”

Read the entire interactive Guardian article by Nina Lakhani, Aliya Uteuova and Alvin Chang.

Related Reading: This post looks at The Guardian: Our Unequal Earth–Food.