Last week, broiler chicken growers, individuals who raise chickens for large processing companies to process and sell for meat, filed a putative class action lawsuit in the Northern District of California alleging that anticompetitive activity among meat packing companies, including Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue Farms, Koch Foods, and Sanderson Farms, has caused their payments to decrease.
The plaintiffs, Anna Mason, Barry Mason, Mitchell Mason, and Johathan Tipton sought damages in their complaint based on claims under the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Packers and Stockyards Act and demanded a jury trial. They sought relief for themselves and others who have raised broiler chickens in the United States since 2013.
They alleged the defendants’ “anticompetitive, collusive, predatory, unfair, and bad faith conduct,” which fixed or maintained the compensation given to growers at “below competitive levels” started either in or before 2008. The purported “scheme” consisted of the defendants sharing data about grower compensation, and then suppressing the competition to drive down compensation.
The complaint claimed, “by sharing this information on a frequent and contemporaneous basis, the Cartel has been able to keep Grower compensation lower than it would have been in a competitive market, and to keep the increased profits for themselves. This illegal information exchange, combined with other anticompetitive conduct alleged herein, drove down Grower compensation nationwide. The members of the Cartel recognized the benefits of sharing this highly sensitive, proprietary and otherwise confidential Grower compensation information with each other, but not with the Growers themselves.”
The same defendants have had multiple antitrust lawsuits filed against them regarding antitrust activity related to the broiler chicken industry by supermarkets, restaurants, and farmers. At least one other lawsuit was filed by chicken growers as well.
The counts against the defendants included agreement to restrain trade and unfair practices. The plaintiffs, represented by Bonsignore, PLLC, Monet Kohli, and Mason Law Firm LLC, are seeking a ruling in their favor and an order stopping the defendants from continuing in their alleged anticompetitive activities.