Chicken companies, including Pilgrim’s Pride and Perdue Farms, have agreed to pay a settlement totaling $35 million in a class action suit alleging price-fixing of its products, the office of Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said in a statement.
Perdue agreed to pay $11 million, while Pilgrim’s Pride said it will pay $6.5 million, the attorney general’s press release said. The announcement follows Tyson Foods’ agreement to pay $10.5 million in the suit last October.
There were 19 companies named in the suit. The five companies that have not yet agreed to any payments are Sanderson Farms and Wayne Farms — which merged last summer — Foster Farms, House of Raeford Farms and Claxton Poultry Farms. The 14 companies who settled will cooperate with the attorney general in providing information in the case against the other five companies, the press release said.
Ferguson alleged the poultry producers colluded to exchange information and manipulate the price of chicken to coordinate reductions in the supply chain and maximize profits. He said roughly 90% of Washington state residents, or 7 million individuals, were impacted by the pricing actions of the poultry companies.
“This is yet another milestone in our case against the companies involved in this conspiracy — but we are not done,” Ferguson said in a statement. “They drove up the price of chicken and cheated hardworking Washingtonians. Antitrust laws protect consumers when company executives conspire to rig the system. I will hold all of the conspirators accountable.”
Pilgrim’s Pride and Perdue did not respond to Food Dive’s request for comment at press time.
Price-fixing allegations have roiled the meat industry in recent years, leading to large settlements and some executives being charged. But the cases haven’t always been successful for prosecutors.
After an extensive years-long investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, executives from Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton Poultry were found not guilty of conspiring to drive up the price of their products by a federal jury last July after an unprecedented third trial.