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Abstract

Consolidation and structural changes in the food industry have had profound impacts on firms, employees, and communities in many parts of the United States. Over 1972-92, eight important food industries underwent a structural transformation in which the number of plants declined by about one-third and the number of employees needed to staff the remaining plants dropped by more than 100,000 (20 percent). The number of plants in one other industry also dropped, but that industry added jobs. Economists generally attribute structural changes such as these to rising or falling demand and shifts in technology. This report examines consolidation and structural change in meatpacking, meat processing, poultry slaughter and processing, cheese products, fluid milk, flour milling, corn milling, feed, and soybean processing. Plant size and output per employee rose sharply in all industries, and even industries with rapidly growing demand—such as soybean processing and poultry slaughter/processing—used fewer plants. These findings suggest that technological change was the major force driving structural change.

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