- JBS USA has agreed pay $25 million to a group of grocery store consumers that accused the company of price-fixing. The class action lawsuit alleged the meat giant conspired with other producers to artificially raise the price of beef since 2015.
- The settlement requires JBS’s cooperation in ongoing cases against companies that have not settled yet, such as Tyson and Cargill, and awaits approval from a judge.
- Meat industry giants have decided to settle as they continue to face an array of lawsuits alleging that they worked to increase profits by gouging consumers.
The Brazil-based company’s agreement to pay the eight-figure sum indicates that some prosecutors’ efforts to target large meat processors are proving successful.
The lawsuit heard in a Minnesota federal court alleged that the defendants “conspired to constrain the supply, and fix the price, of beef from at least 2015 through the commencement of the present action.” Plaintiffs said the beef companies met at trade shows to conspire to keep prices inflated.
“Defendants’ own transaction and slaughter data, their public calls for industry wide slaughter and capacity reductions, and measurable market conditions confirm the existence of the unlawful price fixing agreement,” the lawyers alleged.
JBS did not respond to Food Dive’s request for comment on the settlement.
JBS’s cooperation with prosecutors in providing information about its competitors “will afford access to transactional data, witnesses, and other information without further litigation and expensive discovery — a significant class-wide benefit,” the plaintiff’s legal representatives said in the proposed settlement.
This settlement follows a previous agreement involving JBS in March 2022 when the company paid $52.5 million to beef purchasers, including grocers. But in a statement to Reuters, the company did not admit liability.
The settlements further the Biden administration’s focus on antitrust in the meat industry. In 2021, the federal government announced it would spend $655 million to help small meat processors compete with competitors. In a Congressional hearing last year, JBS USA CEO Tim Schellpepper said the company sells its products at wholesale prices.
Other lawsuits accusing the largest beef providers of working together to drive up prices remain in litigation. Wholesale distributor Sysco alleged in a suit last July that JBS, Cargill, Tyson and National Beef Packing colluded to limit the number of cattle slaughtered as a way to pay ranchers less.