The USDA investigation was launched last year following a major fire at a Tyson Foods processing facility in Kansas that impacted cattle prices, leading them to drop while retail prices remained unaffected.
While no formal findings from that investigation have been revealed, the USDA was put under pressure from trade groups to include the impact of coronavirus on beef prices. Pressure included a letter from National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) president Marty Smith to US President Donald Trump urging progress in the investigation.
In response, USDA secretary Sonny Perdue confirmed on Twitter that coronavirus would be included in the investigation. He said: "USDA’s Packers and Stockyards Division will be extending our oversight to determine the causes of divergence between box and live beef prices, beginning with the Holcomb Fire in KS last summer and now with COVID-19."
No timeline for the publication of findings has been given.
The announcement was welcomed by the NCBA. In a statement, Smith said: "Secretary Perdue’s decision to examine market reactions surrounding the Holcomb fire and the spread of COVID-19 in the United States, will help restore the confidence of cattle producers in the market. We also look forward to the agency’s recommendations about improvements the industry can make to its markets, improvements that will ensure we have the fair and functioning markets that are so vital to cattle producers.”