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Photo: NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP via Getty Images

The Departments of Justice is investigating allegations that the meatpacking industry is fixing or manipulating prices, a person familiar with the investigation told Axios on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The investigation follows a surge in meat prices after outbreaks in a number of processing plants led to closures in more than a dozen states. But processors have been paying farmers and ranchers extremely low prices for their cattle, according to Politico, which first reported on the investigation.

  • The DOJ will probe the so-called "big four" meat producers who together make up about 85% of the U.S. market Tyson Foods, JBS, National Beef and Cargill.
  • The Department of Agriculture is also reviewing meat price fluctuations, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue told Politico.

The big picture: The industry has long been a target of antitrust scrutiny. But the coronavirus crisis is "highlighting how the American system of getting meat to the table favors a handful of giant companies despite a century of government efforts to decentralize it," Politico writes.

Go deeper

Biden Cabinet confirmation schedule: When to watch hearings

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris on Jan. 16 in Wilmington, Delaware. Photo: Angela Weiss/AFP via Getty Images

The first hearings for President-elect Joe Biden's Cabinet nominations begin on Tuesday, with testimony from his picks to lead the departments of State, Homeland and Defense.

Why it matters: It's been a slow start for a process that usually takes place days or weeks earlier for incoming presidents. The first slate of nominees will appear on Tuesday before a Republican-controlled Senate, but that will change once the new Democratic senators-elect from Georgia are sworn in.

Kamala Harris resigns from Senate seat ahead of inauguration

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris. Photo: Mason Trinca/Getty Images

Vice President-elect Kamala Harris submitted her resignation from her seat in the U.S. Senate on Monday, two days before she will be sworn into her new role.

What's next: California Gov. Gavin Newsom has selected California Secretary of State Alex Padilla to serve out the rest of Harris' term, which ends in 2022.

4 hours ago - World

Putin foe Navalny to be detained for 30 days after returning to Moscow

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny. Photo: Oleg Nikishin/Epsilon/Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexey Navalny has been ordered to remain in pre-trial detention for 30 days, following his arrest upon returning to Russia on Sunday for the first time since a failed assassination attempt last year.

Why it matters: The detention of Navalny, an anti-corruption activist and the most prominent domestic critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has already set off a chorus of condemnations from leaders in Europe and the U.S.