Chicken Companies Receive Antitrust Lawsuits from Restaurant Groups

A large group of chicken producers received four different anti-trust lawsuits on Friday in the Northern District of Illinois. The lawsuits were each filed by a restaurant company, The Johnny Rockets Group, Inc., Barbeque Integrated, Inc., FIC Restaurants, Inc., and Boston Market Corporation. The companies alleged the defendants are co-conspirators and that they restrained production and fixed prices of chicken in order to raise and stabilize the price of chicken in the United States.

The petitioners in the four different cases are each represented by Marks & Klein. The chicken companies include, among others, Tyson Foods, Koch Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms Inc., Perdue Farms Inc., Wayne Farms LLC, and Foster Farms LLC.

The alleged anticompetitive activity occurred from January 2008 until at least 2017. Some of the chicken suppliers have already been criminally charged in the District of Colorado for the same antitrust activity. Tyson, which was not one of the four companies charged in the Colorado case, issued a statement last Wednesday saying they would cooperate with the Department of Justice antitrust investigation.

The antitrust complaints claimed that after a decrease in the price of chicken produced for meat consumption, also known as broiler chickens, the defendants conspired to reduce the supply and manipulate the price of chicken sold to the restaurants.

Some of the restaurants claim they were targeted specifically when purchasing Small Bird Broilers, receiving artificially high bids from the various chicken companies.

“Defendants reaped the benefits of their illegal conduct through their production and sale … of Broilers at inflated non-competitive prices. Indeed, during key periods in the Conspiracy Period Defendants continuously urged one another to ‘lower supply in order to offset reduced demand and to support higher market prices,’” the complaints claimed.

Each restaurant group requested damages and a judgment that the chicken producers engaged in the anticompetitive activity. They also asked for post-judgment interest and attorney’s fees.