A new federal lawsuit alleging collusion among the top poultry companies in the United States has been filed on behalf of a couple who were contract growers for Pilgrim’s Pride.
According to a report from the Greeley Tribune, Marc and Karen McEntire, began growing for Pilgrim’s in 2004, but exited the poultry industry about ten years later due to financial harships.
In a complaint filed on September 14 in the U.S. District Court of Colorado, the McEntires alleged that Pilgrim’s Pride conspired with other U.S. poultry companies -- including Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms – through a “no-poach” scheme, where they would not try to recruit small poultry growers from each other and share competition data.
Under such a scheme, the plaintiffs allege, small growers are placed in a situation where they must either deal with taking non-competitive prices for their poultry or suffer financially due to the high initial costs of meeting farm specifications as set out by the integrators.
The lawsuit comes just 10 days after other lawsuits were filed against some of the same companies, in which the plaintiffs alleged the leading U.S. poultry companies cut production in order to inflate the price of chicken. Those lawsuits were filed on behalf of Bob Evans Farms, Fresh Market and Wawa.
The suit filed on behalf of the McEntires included similar allegations, claiming the integrators participated in broader price-fixing practices.
The lawsuits mount as four poultry industry executives face federal antitrust charges related to claims of collusion and antitrust activity. Pilgrim’s Pride Global CEO Jayson Penn, former Pilgrim’s Pride Vice President Roger Austin, Claxton Poultry President Mikell Fries and Claxton Poultry Vice President Scott Brady await a federal trial that is scheduled for February, after being indicted on federal antitrust charges in June.
Penn has since taken a leave of absence, with Pilgrim’s Pride Chief Financial Officer Fabio Sandri assuming the role of CEO on an interim basis.