Another lawsuit has been filed that accuses many of the Top Poultry Companies in the United States of conspiring in an effort to raise the price of chicken.
Among the companies targeted in a new lawsuit filed in a federal court in Chicago are: Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms, Koch Foods, Mountaire, Wayne Farms, House of Raeford, Mar-Jac Holdings, Perdue Farms, Fieldale Farms, George’s, Simmons Foods, O.K. Foods, Harrison Poultry, Foster Farms, Claxton Poultry and Agri Stats.
Enough of these suits -- all of which I consider frivolous -- have been filed that it hardly seems interesting anymore when a new one is filed. But when I saw the list of companies that are plaintiffs in the latest suit, it caught my attention. To borrow the title of a song from the early 1990s, this suit offers plenty of “Things that Make You Go Hmmm.”
Four of the plaintiff companies listed in the lawsuit, according to a Chicago Tribune report, are: Kraft Heinz, Nestle, Conagra Brands, and Pinnacle Foods, which is a subsidiary of Conagra.
All four are diversified food companies that source chicken for some of their products. But one is also one of the nation’s top turkey companies, and another is a former broiler producer.
I don’t mean to insinuate anything such as ulterior motives for taking part in this lawsuit, but here are a few details about some of the plaintiffs that I find curious:
- Kraft Heinz is the parent company of Oscar Mayer and is the sixth largest turkey company in the United States. According to the WATT PoultryUSA Top Turkey Companies survey, several of the defendants are also top turkey companies: Tyson Foods is ranked fifth, Perdue is ranked 7th and Foster Farms is ranked 11th.
- Conagra is a former broiler producer. The company’s chicken division was acquired by Pilgrim’s Pride in 2004.
- The CEO of Con-Agra, Sean Connolly, is the former CEO of Hillshire Brands. When Tyson Foods finalized its acquisition of Hillshire Brands in 2014, it was announced that Connolly had “chosen to pursue other interests, but will consult during the integration process.” He was named to the leadership post with Conagra in early 2015.
- Hillshire Brands had made an offer to acquire Pinnacle Foods, but that proposed transaction was halted with Tyson’s acquisition of Hillshire. Pinnacle became a subsidiary of Conagra in 2018.
- Allen Harim’s new poultry plant and headquarters in Millsboro, Delaware, is a former Vlasic pickle plant that purchased from Pinnacle Foods. Allen Harim, which processes less chicken than all of the defendant companies except for Harrison Poultry, is not listed in the lawsuit.
- Nestle USA in 2017 has pledged to source only chicken from broilers raised according to Global Animal Partnership (GAP) criteria by 2024. At this point, very few of the companies listed as defendants have agreed to raise GAP-certified chicken.
How this lawsuit will play out of course remains to be seen, but it appears to me that these companies that have filed the suit should have known better. Do you agree?