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‘Add-on’ lawsuit filed alleging poultry price-fixing

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Just months after a federal judge refused to dismiss a lawsuit against some of the nation’s largest poultry producers, a second lawsuit has been filed against companies that include Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms and Koch Foods alleging that the companies conspired to reduce the supply of broiler meat in order to fix prices.

The most recent lawsuit was filed Jan.12 in U.S. district court in Chicago, Ill., by Bi-Lo Holdings and sister company Winn-Dixie Stores, which are owned by Southeastern Grocers.

The plaintiffs allege that, beginning in 2008, broiler chicken producers coordinated efforts to reduce the supply of broiler chickens for sale in the U.S., knowing that those supply reductions would lead to increased prices. The reductions, the lawsuit claims, were allegedly achieved by closing plants, exporting hatching eggs and destroying company breeder hens. As a result, the lawsuit suggests that the actions resulted in a roughly 50% increase in the price of broiler chickens.

In a statement to Feedstuffs, Tyson said, “Add-on lawsuits like this one are common in antitrust matters but don’t change the fact that these claims are unfounded, because we’ve not done anything wrong. We will defend our company in court.”

Bloomberg reported in November 2016 that Southeastern Grocers, the parent company for Winn-Dixie and Bi-Holdings, was struggling with soaring debt and that it could be nearing a bankruptcy filing. At the time, it was reported that the company had hired advisors to help refinance $1 billion in debt.

At press time, Southeastern Grocers had not provided a comment on the litigation.

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