ALBUQUERQUE, NM. - A recent verdict by a jury in the US District Court of New Mexico ruled that Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. was ordered to pay Zia Agricultural Consulting LLC after a contract complaint.

During the final judgment, US District Judge Margaret Strickland told the meat processor to pay more than $2.5 million in actual damages plus $8 million in punitive damages.

The complaint was filed in May 2020 after Zia sold thousands of cattle to Tyson that were meant to go to Whole Foods Market under the Global Animal Partnership – certified cattle (Premium Cattle) and non-hormone treated cattle.

Zia filed four claims of relief, including fraudulent misrepresentation and breach of contract. 

According to the complaint, Tyson agreed to a cattle contract in 2018 and 2019 with Zia at the agreed-upon price. However, Zia claimed that Tyson refused to pay that price after the cattle were ready to be processed.

The lawsuit alleged that Tyson held significant leverage over Zia since the market for Premium Cattle is smaller than and not as fluid as the market for conventional cattle. Zia also argued that Tyson handles the majority of Whole Foods’ premium cattle packaging.

When contacted by MEAT+POULTRY, Tyson declined to comment on the case.