On Monday, Winn-Dixie Stores and Bi-Lo Holding filed a complaint against major beef packing companies in the Minnesota District Court with antitrust allegations similar to a group of allegations already filed against the same defendants and others regarding various meats leading to federal government action.
In their 105-page complaint, the grocery stores argued that Cargill, JBS, Tyson, and National Beef Packing Company participated in a conspiracy to restrain the supply of beef and raise the prices starting in 2015 and leading into 2020.
Allegedly, the defendants closed plants and did not expand their production and encouraged others to do the same so that the price for beef would be stuck. Additionally, they reduced imports of cattle to ensure the price of cattle stayed high. Reportedly, concentration in the beef industry, barriers keeping others from entering the market, and opportunities to coordinate led the beef companies to the alleged actions.
The plaintiffs claimed that the significant market share owned by the defendants, about 80 percent of the U.S. market, supports their allegations of a conspiracy. Further, they cited investigations from the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of agriculture into the alleged activities as further evidence.
Win-Dixie and Bi-Lo claimed that it was forced to pay a higher price for beef during the conspiracy period and were directly harmed by the defendants’ actions. They claimed that the antitrust violations have continued and that the defendants have continually adjusted their agreements for price-fixing to address market changes, noting that their claims should not be considered time-barred.
“Each purchase by Plaintiffs through the Conspiracy Period of Operating Defendants’ beef, the price of which resulted from Operating Defendants’ continually renewed and adjusted price-fixing agreement, necessarily caused new and accumulating injury to Plaintiffs,” the complaint said.