DENVER – In the latest price-fixing claim in the poultry industry, two Texas chicken growers filed an antitrust lawsuit against five major poultry processors this week.
The complaint was filed in the US District of Colorado on behalf of Marc and Karen McEntire who claim that officials from Tyson Foods Inc., Sanderson Farms Inc., Pilgrims Pride’s Corp., Perdue Foods LLC and Koch Foods Inc. agreed to share data on grower compensation with one another going back to 2008.
McEntire also claims that Broiler Grow-Out Services incurred $120,000 in debt to make improvements on their broiler operations that were required by Pilgrim’s Pride, their main client at the time.
“Throughout their time providing broiler grow-out services, plaintiffs were barely able to make ends meet with the compensation provided by Pilgrim’s,” the lawsuit said. “Plaintiffs would not have been able to make ends meet with Pilgrim’s compensation, and so worked other full-time jobs while caring for Broilers. In 2014, Plaintiffs quit providing Broiler Grow-Out Services and sold their property.”
Pilgrim’s Pride did not respond for a request for comment. Tyson Foods’ response iterated the company’s policy of not sharing compensation information with other companies.
“Contrary to the allegations in the complaint, we want our contract poultry farmers to succeed and don’t discuss their compensation with our competitors,” a Tyson representative said. “Tyson operates by a Contract Poultry Farmers’ Bill of Rights and works with a Poultry Farmer Advisory Council made up of farmers who raise chickens for us. Our average contract farmer has been raising chickens for us for 15 years. The compensation we provide is set out clearly in contracts the farmers voluntarily enter into. Our contracts with farmers are typically three to seven years or longer. The farmers are free to discuss the terms of their contracts with whomever they want, including other farmers, and are also free to switch to other chicken processors who operate in their area.”
A Perdue Farms representative said it does not comment on pending litigation.
Later in the lawsuit filing, McEntire named the following agents and co-conspirators: Agri-Stats Inc., Foster Farms, Mountaire Farms, Wayne Farms, George’s Inc., Peco Foods Inc., House of Raeford Farms, Simmons Foods, Keystone Foods Inc., Fieldale Farms Corp., O.K. Industries, Case Foods, Marshall Durbin Cos., Amick Farms Inc. and Claxton Poultry Farms.