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Vertical Integration

by Jonathan Foley
Published: Last Updated on
vertical integration in agriculture

Vertical integration in agriculture refers to the consolidation of various stages of food production, from farming to distribution, under a single company or organization. This business strategy is often used to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve control over the supply chain.

Historically, vertical integration in agriculture began in the early 20th century with the rise of large agribusiness companies such as ADM and Cargill. These companies used vertical integration to control the production and distribution of agricultural products, such as grain and meat.

Today, vertical integration in agriculture is prevalent in many countries around the world, with the United States and Brazil being two of the largest players. In the US, large agribusiness companies like Tyson Foods and JBS USA own and operate farms, processing plants, and distribution networks. In Brazil, companies like JBS and Marfrig Global Foods have significant control over the production and distribution of beef, pork, and poultry.

There are several types of vertical integration in agriculture, including forward integration, where a company expands into the distribution and retail of its products, and backward integration, where a company takes control of the production of inputs used in its operations.

One example of forward integration is Tyson Foods, which owns and operates retail stores that sell its meat products. An example of backward integration is JBS USA, which owns and operates feedlots and slaughterhouses to control the production of beef.


There are several advantages to vertical integration in agriculture, including increased efficiency and cost savings. By controlling various stages of the supply chain, companies can reduce costs associated with transportation and distribution, and improve their ability to respond to changes in consumer demand.

However, there are also concerns about the effects of vertical integration on farmers, consumers, and the environment. Critics argue that it can lead to increased market concentration, which can limit competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. Additionally, it can lead to increased use of pesticides and fertilizers, which can be harmful to the environment.

Despite these concerns, it is likely to continue to be a prevalent business strategy in the global food industry. As the world population continues to grow and demand for food increases, companies will look for ways to improve efficiency and reduce costs in order to meet this demand.

However, it’s important to consider the potential negative impacts of vertical integration on small farmers, consumers, and the environment. Regulations may need to be put in place to ensure fair competition and prevent negative impacts. Additionally, more research is needed to understand the long-term effects of vertical integration on the global food system.


In conclusion, vertical integration in agriculture is a business strategy that has been used for decades to increase efficiency and reduce costs. While it has its advantages, it also has its drawbacks, such as market concentration and environmental concerns. Therefore, as the global food industry continues to evolve, it is important to consider the role and its potential effects on small farmers, consumers, and the environment.

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