MINNEAPOLIS —A Minnesota federal court consolidated three lawsuits into one against the largest beef packers in the country last week. Hildy Bowbeer, a US magistrate judge, will oversee the proposed lawsuit filed in Minnesota earlier this year according to her 9-page order.

On April 23, Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF) filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods, JBS S.A., National Beef Packing Co. and Cargill for conspiring to depress prices for fed cattle to the detriment of ranchers and cattle futures traders. R-CALF said in its suit that the price depreciation had been going on since at least Jan. 1, 2015.

The lawsuit also said that the companies:

  • reduced slaughter volumes and purchases of cattle sold on the cash market in order to create a glut of slaughter-weight fed cattle;
  • manipulated the cash cattle trade to reduce price competition amongst themselves;
  • transported cattle over uneconomically long distances in order to depress US fed cattle prices; and
  • deliberately close slaughter plants to ensure the underutilization of available US beef packing capacity.

Later in April, the same major companies received a consumer class action lawsuit by Douglas Wright and Sam Mendenhall that accused them of similar price-fixing actions.

Then a third lawsuit was filed on May 9 by Michael Sevy, a live cattle futures trader who alleges that “suffered monetary losses by transacting in live cattle futures and options at artificial prices directly resulting from packing defendants’ conduct, including their suppression of fed cattle prices.” Sevy also stated that the conduct manipulated live cattle futures and trades on the CME which is a violation of the Sherman Act.

A Tyson Foods spokesman previously stated that they were disappointed in the baseless case.

“As with similar lawsuits concerning chicken and pork, there’s simply no merit to the allegations that Tyson colluded with competitors,” the statement continued. “This complaint is nothing more than another transparent and opportunistic attempt by attorneys to make money for themselves at the expense of consumers. Tyson operates with integrity every day.  We welcome competition, which makes us a better company, enhances the quality of our products and provides more choices at greater value to our customers.”

Cargill also previously released a statement on the matter saying it is “a trusted partner to American cattle ranchers, committed to supporting their family farms and livelihoods.” They also said the claims lack merit and are confident in effort to maintain market integrity and conduct ethical business.”

North American Meat Institute (NAMI) spokeswoman Sarah Little backed the companies in the lawsuit saying, "We continue to believe these lawsuits are unfounded and ignore the economics of the marketplace. The meat industry has been subject to careful scrutiny in the past, always with the conclusion there has been no evidence of collusion.”