Alaska files suit claiming poultry industry collusion

The State of Alaska is one of the most recent entities to sue the nation’s top poultry producers, alleging that they conspired to inflate the price of chicken.

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Olga Turkas | Bigstock
Olga Turkas | Bigstock

The State of Alaska is one of the most recent entities to sue the nation’s top poultry producers, alleging that they conspired to inflate the price of chicken.

In a suit recently filed by the Alaska Department of Law, the state said it is seeking more than $1 billion from 21 companies, according to an Associated Press report published in the San Francisco Chronicle.

Alaska Assistant Attorney General Maria Bahr said the state alleges those companies, which were not identified in the article, “engaged in an illegal conspiracy to restrain production and manipulate pricing to artificially inflate the price of broiler chicken throughout the United States, including Alaska.”

Numerous businesses and individuals have filed similar lawsuits alleging a conspiracy among leading poultry companies within the past five years.

In 2019, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) filed a motion to intervene in cases where plaintiffs have made such allegations. The motion further sought that all depositions be halted for a six-month period.

Since that time, ten poultry industry executives were indicted on federal antitrust charges – four were indicted in June 2020, while six more were indicted in October 2020.

Pilgrim’s Pride and Tyson Foods – the two largest poultry companies in the United States -- have both since entered plea agreements with the DOJ. Pilgrim’s agreed to a fine of more than $110.5 million, while Tyson Foods agreed to a fine of $221.5 million.

In February, Pilgrim’s Pride entered a guilty plea to charges that it participated in a conspiracy to fix prices. In that plea agreement, Pilgrim’s agreed to pay criminal fines amounting to about $107.9 million. Among those ten people who were earlier indicted included Bill Lovette and Jayson Penn, both former CEOs of Pilgrim’s Pride; Roger Austin, a former vice president of Pilgrim’s Pride; Jimmie Little, sales team member; and William Kantola, senior vice president of foodservice.

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