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A growing and disturbing trend appears to be lawsuits in which the plaintiffs are alleging that some of the top companies in the animal protein industry are conspiring with one another in order to manipulate prices and raise the costs at the retail level.
Just recently, one such suit was filed against the leading pork companies in the United States on behalf of a group of consumers, and a day or two later, another suit was filed against some of the top poultry companies in the nation on behalf of three major grocery retailers.
Tyson Foods was targeted in both suits, and in a statement, denied what it has been accused of doing. “Tyson Foods competes with integrity every day in every market. We welcome vigorous competition which makes us a better company and enhances the quality of our products. We are disappointed by the recent cases involving pork filed by the purported consumer classes and by the recent case regarding broiler chickens filed by our customer. Lawsuits like these do not benefit consumers, but only work to enrich opportunistic plaintiff attorneys. We’re determined to defend against these claims,” the company stated.
I cannot disagree with Tyson’s statement.
Suits similar to the two most recent ones have been filed. Key in my mind was one targeting some of the country’s top egg companies. In a court decision reached in June, a jury determined that Rose Acre Farms, R.W. Sauder and Ohio Fresh Eggs had not taken part in any collusion. But those three companies certainly racked up pretty sizable legal bills, while other companies reached costly settlements, not to admit guilt but rather to avoid the hassles and expenses of legal defense.
Fieldale Farms, also reached a settlement in one of the suits against top broiler companies, for similar reasons certain egg companies decided to settle.
Regardless of whether a company decides to settle or defend itself in a court, lawsuits like these are costly to a company and are an added distraction that detract attention away from producing food for the consumers.
It is somewhat comprehensible that some consumers might just want easy money that comes from one of these lawsuits with little concern for those to whom the expense comes. It is not comprehensible that grocery chains would do the same.
Sure, retailers want to get the best deal from the suppliers with which they do business. But to jump in on copycat litigation that typically only results in settlements and not verdicts does not appear to be good business.
But that is what Kroger, Albersons Companies and Hy-Vee did in the latest lawsuit against the leading broiler companies, and what Winn-Dixie and Bi-Lo did in a similar suit filed in January.
While I am not a juror, I don’t feel like these plaintiff companies are entitled to a dime. Not from the companies in which they are suing, and not from consumers who support animal agriculture.
Boycotting said businesses, or at least reducing your patronage of them, seems like a good solution. And along with shopping elsewhere, write to said companies to let them know that is what you are doing and why.
There are situations in which there is no better way to vote than through the wallet, and this seems to be one of those situations.