On Eve of Congressional Hearing, Data Shows Egregious Profiteering in Food, Energy Sectors

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Food SystemClimate and Energy

New data analysis from the advocacy group Food & Water Watch shows that pandemic-era inflation is being largely driven by the food and energy industries, where price increases over the past two years have grossly out-scaled economy-wide increases, and where corporate revenues in these sectors are soaring. 

This analysis comes ahead of tomorrow’s hearing in the House Energy & Commerce Committee on corporate price gouging during the pandemic.

“Companies are hiding behind the pandemic and supply chain disruptions as an excuse to gouge consumers. But in reality, 2021 revenues among the largest food and energy corporations topped pre-pandemic levels,” said Amanda Starbuck, research director at Food & Water Watch. “Many companies have subsequently fattened executive compensation while worker wages have stagnated or even dropped.” 

Over the past two years (Dec. ‘19 – Dec. ‘21) the Consumer Price Index (CPI) has increased by 8.5 percent. However:

  • Energy costs have increased by 20.3 percent.
  • The cost to feed a family of four on a “thrifty” food plan has increased by 33.5 percent.

More specifically:

  • Gasoline: +31.7% per gallon unleaded.
  • Beef: +19.2% for ground beef and +25.5% for beef roast.
  • Pork: +31.7% for bacon and +18.6% for pork chops.
  • Poultry: +19.7% for chicken breasts and +15.5% for broiler composite.
  • Milk: +17.4% for whole milk (gallon).
  • Eggs: +16.5% for Grade A eggs (dozen).

Meanwhile, corporate revenues in the food and energy sectors are growing rapidly.

Oil and gas industry revenues, by quarter (*in millions):

 Q4 2019Q1 2020Q2 2020Q3 2020Q4 2020Q1 2021Q2 2021Q3 2021Q4 2021
ExxonMobil$67,173$56,158$32,605$46,199$46,540$59,147$67,742$73,786$84,965
Chevron$36,350$31,501$13,494$24,451$25,246$32,029$37,597$44,710$48,130

Meat and poultry industry revenues:

  • Tyson Foods (FY ending 10/3/20): +1.8% over FY 2019. 2021 FY revenue +11% over FY 2019 (pre-pandemic levels).
  • WH Group (parent company of Smithfield): 2020 revenue +6.2% over 2019. 
  • Perdue (FY ending 3/30/21): +12.7% over FY 2020.
  • Cargill (FY ending 5/30/21): +17.3% over FY 2020.

Grocery industry revenues – top four grocery retailers in the U.S., controlling about 70% of the market:

  • Walmart (FY ending 1/31/21): +6.7% over FY 2019.
  • Kroger (FY ending 1/30/21): +8.4% over FY 2019.
  • Costco (FY ending 8/30/20): +9.2% over FY 2019. Costco’s FY 2021 numbers which have been released show +17.5% revenue increase over FY 2020, and 28.3% over FY 2019 (pre-pandemic levels).
  • Albertsons (FY ending 2/27/21): +11.6% over FY 2019

Contact: Seth Gladstone – [email protected]