MINNEAPOLIS – Chief Judge John R. Tunheim, US District Court of Minnesota, tossed an anti-trust lawsuit filed by rancher group R-CALF and others against Tyson Foods Inc., JBS S.A., National Beef Packing Co. and Cargill, but left open the opportunity for the plaintiffs to amend their complaint.
“We’re pleased with the court’s decision,” Tyson Foods said in response to the ruling.
In his ruling, Tunheim said the complaint offered little evidence of how the meatpackers conspired to manipulate prices for fed cattle, “…and instead resort to group pleading, arguing that the market did this or that.”
“The most specific allegations relate to a single year, 2015, where JBS reduced its annual slaughter volume by 17%, National Beef by 6%, and Tyson by 4%,” Tunheim said in his opinion. “Plaintiffs then go on to say little about the individual Defendants in the years that follow when slaughter volumes actually increase. As for the other allegations, such as a reduction in the amount of purchased cash cattle, Plaintiffs “rely almost exclusively on industry-wide data and ask the Court to infer that the individual Defendants all contributed to the decrease . . . simply because they make up the majority of the industry.”
Tunheim also said the complaint lacked detail about confidential witnesses that worked for the meatpackers.
“Because of the lack of detail regarding the firms by which the Confidential Witnesses were employed, Plaintiffs do not adequately explain their jobs and how their interactions in those jobs would lead to them acquiring the knowledge they allegedly possess,” Tunheim said.
“In all, the lack of detail about the Confidential Witnesses, combined with the mismatched nature of what they allege, lead the Court to conclude their claims are not sufficiently detailed to survive Defendants’ motion to dismiss.”
The Ranchers Cattlemen Action Legal Fund, United Stockgrowers of America (R-CALF) and the Farmers Educational and Cooperative Union of America (NFU) filed the lawsuit in April of 2019. The case was consolidated with several separately filed putative class actions: Douglas Wright and Sam Mendenhall also sued the meatpackers later in the same month. A third lawsuit was filed on May 9 by Michael Sevy, a live cattle futures trader who said he lost money in live cattle futures and options because of the meatpackers’ conduct.