Tyson will pay $10.5 million to settle a class action lawsuit that says the company, among 18 others, drove up prices of poultry products in Washington state since at least 2008, Seattle Attorney General Bob Ferguson said Monday.
The total amount of settlement payments from companies named in the lawsuit now totals $11.7 million. The 16 poultry companies that have not yet resolved their cases — including Pilgrim’s Pride, Perdue, and the former Wayne Farms and Sanderson Farms — make up the majority of broiler chicken market in Washington state.
The prosecutor’s office said in a release that through an investigation, it found a “a coordinated, industry-wide effort to cut production through the exchange of competitively sensitive information, signals during investor calls and direct coordination between players in the industry.” The release states a former Tyson representative admitted to colluding with employees from other companies to drive up the price of chicken sold to restaurants, including KFC and Popeye’s.
Ferguson’s office noted in the press release that Alaska and New Mexico also have similar pending state-level lawsuits against poultry providers.
Several federal cases accusing major poultry producers of price fixing have been filed by various parties. In 2016, foodservice supplier Maplevale Farms sued several chicken producers, accusing them of manipulating supplies in order to keep prices high. The U.S. Justice Department intervened in this lawsuit, which ended in guilty pleas and large fines paid by producers including Tyson and Pilgrim’s Pride. The DOJ also prosecuted former executives at Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton Poultry in connection with the purported scheme, but they were acquitted by a jury in July after three trials.
Restaurant chains, CPGs and food distributors have also sued chicken producers over price fixing accusations. Many of the cases have been dismissed with prejudice, meaning the plaintiffs can bring similar lawsuits in the future.
While price-fixing complaints in the meat industry have been prevalent for years, they have garnered more attention since 2021. The Biden administration has committed funds and made pledges to boost smaller producers and make the meat market more transparent.
Tyson CEO Donnie King defended the company’s conduct in a congressional hearing in April, arguing producers are required by the USDA to report the prices of their products twice a day.