Defendants in Chicken Antitrust Suit Ask Court to Compel Discovery from Food Distributors

On Friday, the defendants in the Northern District of Illinois consolidated broiler chicken antitrust case filed a motion to compel the plaintiffs in two cases, Sysco Corp. and US Foods Inc., to provide witnesses and documents for specific topics, claiming that the information would show other factors, besides the plaintiffs’ alleged collusion, were involved in determining broiler chicken prices. 

The plaintiffs in this action are food services distributors who provide items, including broiler chickens, which have been processed by many of the defendants, to restaurants and grocery stores. The defendants include Agri Stats Inc. and broiler chicken processing companies like Tyson Inc. and Foster Farms, LLC. The consolidated lawsuit contains complaints filed by restaurants, chicken growers, grocers, and others involved in the chicken supply chain and includes three separate classes seeking certification. 

The memorandum filed by the defendants claimed that these plaintiffs were not able to reach a compromise with the defendants after eight months of negotiations on some discovery topics. The defendants in their motion asked for the court to order the plaintiffs to provide information in four separate categories: the plaintiffs’ knowledge or analysis of chicken products, information about their competitors and their gathering and use of the information, their monitoring of the broiler chicken market, and their investigation before filing their complaints. 

The defendants said the topics were “central” to the claims brought against them. “Sysco and US Foods are the two largest broadline distributors in the United States. The documents they produced in this case demonstrate that they monitored various market factors impacting the price of Broilers – the cost of feed, production levels, and consumer demand – and then used that information to make their Broiler procurement decisions and negotiate Broiler prices. Evidence that Plaintiffs themselves successfully forecasted Broiler prices based on market factors will prove that those factors – not any alleged collusion – actually determined prices,” the parties said. 

The chicken industry defendants said they cannot wait longer to ask the court to help obtain the “basic information” about the case from the plaintiffs because the depositions in the case are happening soon. 

Sysco Corporation is represented by Boies Schiller & Flexner, while US Foods, Inc. is represented by Boies Schiller & Flexner, Kopecky Schumacher Rosenburg, and Paul Weiss Rifkind Wharton Garrison.