Law Street Media

Campbell Soup Files Chicken Antitrust Complaint

Six brown eggs in an egg carton.

Eggs background. Closeup view of eggs in carton box on wooden table. Food and health concept.

 The plaintiff, Campbell Soup Company and its affiliates, are among the latest to file suit against broiler chicken producers for conspiring to fix chicken prices in violation of federal antitrust laws. Through its filing, Campbell seeks to join the sprawling Chicago multidistrict litigation underway since 2016, known as In re Broiler Antitrust Litigation.

Its three-page complaint explains that Campbell seeks to unite with a group of direct action plaintiffs (DAPs). The filing incorporates by reference the factual allegations the DAPs laid out in the public version of their nearly 400-page Oct. 23 consolidated complaint.

The now-massive suit accuses the nation’s major broiler chicken producers of engaging in a long-standing antitrust conspiracy to fix prices, suppress production, and manipulate the public index price of chickens. The defendants are the largest suppliers in the nation, “controll[ing] nearly 90% of the market for chicken in the United States,” according to the DAPs’ consolidated complaint.

The DAPs also contend that the defendants own or control all aspects of broiler chicken production, describing the supply chain as “almost entirely vertically integrated, with producers (sometimes known as ‘integrators’) owning, or tightly controlling, each of the six stages of the supply chain: breeding, hatching, chick-rearing/feeding, slaughtering mature birds, processing, and selling.”

Campbell’s filing signifies its intent to join the civil litigation proceeding before Judge Thomas M. Durkin. The Oct. 30 complaint by New Jersey’s Campbell Soup Company, Campbell Soup Supply Company L.L.C, and Pacific Foods of Oregon, LLC (collectively Campbell) explains that it manufacturers and markets “high-quality, branded food and beverage products.” It further alleges that it is a direct purchaser of broiler chickens from several of the defendants.

Campbell’s complaint names Agri Stats, Case, Claxton, Fieldale, Foster Farms, George’s, Harrison, House of Raeford, Keystone, Koch, Mar-Jac, Mountaire, O.K. Foods, Peco, Perdue, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson, Simmons, Tyson, and Wayne as defendants. Campbell brings three causes of action, Count I (a Sherman Act claim for all anticompetitive conduct); Count II (a Sherman Act claim for output restriction); and Count III (a Sherman Act claim for Georgia “Dock Manipulation”).

Campbell is represented by Boies Schiller Flexner LLP and local counsel Johnson & Bell, LTD.

Elsewhere in the litigation, a handful of opt-out direct purchaser plaintiffs are in the process of settling with several of the defendants after having received preliminary approval in December 2019. On the criminal front, the Department of Justice recently secured indictments against six executives for their involvement in the antitrust conspiracy.

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