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

Updated 41 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 18,614,542 — Total deaths: 702,330 — Total recoveries — 11,181,018Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 3:30 p.m. ET: 4,793,950 — Total deaths: 157,416 — Total recoveries: 1,528,979 — Total tests: 58,239,438Map.
  3. 2020: Joe Biden will no longer travel to Milwaukee for Democratic convention.
  4. Public health: Florida surpasses 500,000 confirmed casesModerna skirts disclosures of vaccine costs.
  5. Sports: The return of high school sports hangs in the balance — UConn becomes first FBS team to cancel football season.
  6. Education: Chicago Public Schools to begin school year fully remote.
Updated 51 mins ago - World

Beirut explosion: Death toll rises to 135, officials under house arrest

Photo: Anwar Amro/AFP via Getty Images

The death toll from Tuesday's explosion in Beirut, Lebanon has now surpassed 130, including at least one U.S. citizen, amid a search for answers as to why a huge store of ammonium nitrate was left unsecured near the city's port for nearly seven years.

What we know: The government says around 5,000 people are injured. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said current indications are that the massive explosion was accidental, despite President Trump's puzzling claim on Tuesday evening that it appeared to be a bomb attack.

Exclusive: Trump campaign seeks early September presidential debate

Photo: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Image

The Trump campaign is asking the Commission on Presidential Debates to move up the last presidential debate to the first week in September to get ahead of an expected surge in early voting.

Driving the news: President Trump's personal attorney, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, made the request in a letter dated Wednesday and obtained by Axios.