On September 16, 2016, Cohen Milstein filed a putative class action antitrust complaint on behalf of consumers who purchased broiler chickens (i.e., chickens raised, processed and sold for meat consumption). An amended complaint filed on February 7, 2018 with lead counsel now alleges that broiler producers, including Tyson Foods. Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corporation, Sanderson Farms, Inc., Perdue Farms, Inc., Koch Foods, Inc., conspired to inflate the price of chicken, and Agri Stats, Inc. — a third party vendor for the broiler producers —knowingly facilitated their unlawful scheme.
On June 21, 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice filed a motion to intervene and stay discovery for six months in order to protect a grand jury’s investigation, and the Court recently granted a partial stay of nine months.
The defendants control nearly 90% of broiler chicken market, which was valued at $28.7 billion in 2015. The complaint alleges that, at least as early as January 1, 2008, the defendants conspired to reduce the supply of broiler chickens, in part by reducing the size of their breeder flocks (which lay the eggs that are raised into broiler chickens). The defendants also conspired to manipulate the Georgia Dock Boiler price index, which was published by the Georgia Department of Agriculture.
Agri Stats helped the broiler-producer defendants coordinate their supply restriction conspiracy and enforce their unlawful agreement. Agri-Stats provided vast amounts of competitively sensitive pricing and production information from the Defendants on a weekly and/or monthly basis. While Agri Stats ostensibly used this data to produce a report describing general trends in the broiler industry, the Agri Stats reports provided such detailed information about the broiler producers’ businesses and facilities that the broiler producers could easily identify one another’s costs and prices. The Agri Stats reports thereby allowed the broiler-producer defendants to monitor one another and make sure that they were sticking to their agreement to restrict broiler supply and raise prices.
The complaint further alleges that as a result of the defendants’ conduct, broiler prices increased significantly since 2008. The scheme resulted in record profits for the defendants at the consumers’ expense.
The case name is: In re Broiler Chicken Antitrust Litigation, Case No. 1:16-cv-08637 TMD, U.S. District Court, District of Illinois, Eastern Division.