A class-action lawsuit that claimed a conspiracy to limit the United States egg supply and drive up prices was rejected on December 12 by a federal jury in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.
The lawsuit was filed on behalf of supermarket chains Kroger, Giant Eagle, Publix, H-E-B, Safeway, Winn-Dixie, Albertsons Companies, Hy-Vee, Walgreens, SuperValu, Roundys and A&P. The plaintiffs alleged that Rose Acre Farms, the second largest egg company in the United States, and United Egg Producers (UEP) conspired with others in order to raise shell egg prices, including that the defendants created an animal welfare program -- the UEP Certified program -- as a pretext to raise egg prices.
According to a press release from Porter Wright, the law firm representing Rose Acre Farms, the case dated back to 2008, when various egg buyers filed a class-action lawsuit against 13 egg producers.
The trial began six weeks ago, the law firm stated in its release.
In closing arguments, Porter Wright attorney Jim King reminded jurors it was the egg buyers who required producers to only sell eggs produced in compliance with the animal welfare standards, and that egg prices went into historic lows after the standards were put in place.
The jury deliberated for a day and a half before reaching the verdict in favor of the egg industry.
UEP hailed the decision.
In its newsletter circulated on the day of the verdict, UEP stated: “United Egg Producers (UEP) and its farmer-members are pleased with today’s jury verdict in favor of UEP and all other defendants in the Egg antitrust trial in Philadelphia. The jury’s decision is a total vindication for the egg industry. It recognizes that UEP’s development and implementation of the UEP Certified program was to assure the care of egg-laying flocks, to meet the needs of egg-purchaser customers which were under pressure to adopt new supplier policies, and to align with changing consumer expectations.
“Our UEP Certified program, which was developed from recommendations by an independent national Scientific Advisory Committee comprised of experts in animal welfare and avian health, provides guidelines for how hens should be housed in modern egg-laying operations. As representatives of the large majority of U.S. egg production, UEP has made hen health, animal care and egg safety a top priority. That will not change.”