Chicken Growers Claim They Were Harmed by Processors’ Anticompetitive Activity

A class-action complaint filed on Friday in the District of Colorado adds broiler chicken growers to the group of plaintiffs seeking relief from alleged anticompetitive activity from meat processing corporations beginning in 2008. They claimed that chicken processing companies participated in illegal activity reducing price competition among chicken growers.

Marc McEntire and Karen McEntire filed the lawsuit seeking damages based on the Sherman Antitrust Act and the Packers and Stockyards Act. They filed the complaint against “vertically-integrated poultry compan(ies),” including Pilgrim’s Pride, who they previously raised chickens for; Tyson Foods, Inc.; Perdue Foods, LLC; Koch Foods, Inc.; and Sanderson Farms, Inc. The complaint lists other companies, including Agri Stats, Inc. and other chicken companies, as “agents and co-conspirators.”

They alleged that the broiler processing plant operators participated in “anticompetitive, collusive, predatory, unfair, and bad faith conduct.” The defendants were accused of sharing data with each other, specifically, data on “(g)rower compensation” or the payment given to those who are hired to raise broiler chickens on their own farms. The plaintiffs claimed this lowered their compensation, along with other growers, “below competitive levels.”

The plaintiffs also purported that the companies “agreed not to solicit (g)rowers associated with other Integrators,” which alleviated other competitive pressures; the complaint said this is illegal. The McEntire’s said they were not able to “make ends meet” with the compensation for raising broilers and worked other full-time jobs in addition to being growers through 2014 when they sold their property and quit raising broiler chickens.

According to the complaint, the processing companies typically enter agreements with farmers called growers, who run small operations where they raise chickens until they are ready to be slaughtered. The complaint lists as defendants the five largest companies who use these systems, which are called Broiler Grow-Out Services.” The corporations provide feed, veterinary services, and supervision and the growers are responsible for building and maintaining the houses for the chickens and the labor to raise them.

The plaintiffs defined the putative class as all individuals or entities in the United States who are compensated for raising broiler chickens by the defendants or any of the listed co-conspirators in a certain time period. They asked for the defendants to pay damages and be stopped from participating in the accused actions.

Marc McEntire and Karen McEntire are represented by Shapiro Bieging Barber Otteson LLP and Roach Langston Bruno LLP.