Plaintiffs fail to prove Fieldale Farms conspired, judge rules

Fieldale Farms is one of six poultry producers cleared of allegations in class-action lawsuits.

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Fieldale Farms may have reduced poultry production at the same time other companies within the industry did, but that does not prove that Fieldale Farms ever took part in any conspiracy, a federal judge ruled.

Fieldale Farms was one of six poultry producers recently cleared of class-action lawsuit allegations that it conspired with other to cut production to raise the price of chicken during a period between 2008 and 2012.

In a recent decision in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Judge Thomas M. Durkin determined that “a reasonable jury could not find by a preponderance of the evidence that Fieldale joined an agreement to restrict supply and increase the price of broilers.

Durkin also cleared Foster Farms, Perdue Farms, Claxton Poultry, Case Farms and Wayne Farms of allegations of collusion, as well as Agri Stats, which provides benchmarking reports for companies within the poultry industry.

In his judgement, Durkin wrote that a Fieldale executive made public statements to an industry publication that the industry “would be better off” if all companies cut production like Fieldale had. Durkin also stated that a Fieldale executive also communicated that belief while at an industry conference.

Other pieces of evidence presented by plaintiffs included allegations that Fieldale employees had been informed that “the industry” was engaged in supply cuts, and that Fieldale and Perdue leaders had a conversation about anticipated supply cuts.

But, Durkin said, the evidence only shows that Fieldale was aware that competitors were cutting supplies, and that it does not prove that it ever agreed to take part in a conspiracy with other producers.

WATT Global Media reached out to Fieldale Farms for comment, but has not yet received a response.

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