The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has intervened in an ongoing poultry lawsuit related to price-fixing among several major poultry processors. The DOJ filed a motion for a temporary stay of discovery for evidence presented as part of the antitrust lawsuit involving several processors, distributors, and sellers. The companies that are involved in the case account for approximately 90 percent of the entire U.S. wholesale broiler chicken market.
The class-action lawsuit brought by food distributor Maplevale Farm is alleging that Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, Koch Foods, and several others all colluded to increase poultry prices between 2008 and 2016. According to a court filing, the DOJ has now become involved by convening a grand jury to examine the situation.
DOJ officials have asked the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois to stop certain depositions and discovery for six months, stating in a motion that “a limited stay is needed to protect the grand jury’s investigation.” If the DOJ uncovers credible evidence that companies were indeed engaging in price-fixing the investigation could result in criminal charges or injunctions for the companies that are involved.
“We are aware of the Department of Justice’s request, which does not change our view that there is simply no merit to the allegations that Tyson Foods colluded with competitors. We remain committed to vigorously defending ourselves against these baseless allegations,” Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said in a statement.
The lawsuit brought by Maplevale is one of many asserting that poultry companies are manipulating the supply and prices for broiler chickens. Companies such as Walmart, Sysco, and Conagra have also filed similar lawsuits against several of the companies named in the Maplevale suit. Poultry farmers have also been involved in litigation against some of the leading poultry processors, alleging a coordinated effort to suppress wages.