Chick-fil-A and Target Sue Poultry Producers for Price Fixing
Chicken has long been a dinnertime staple, but thanks to last year’s chicken sandwich wars and a pandemic-driven wing restaurant boom, the seemingly-simple chicken is more popular than ever. And yet, now, an already beleaguered poultry industry is facing fresh accusations from two major brands that consumers have been paying more for this meat than they probably should have. Both Chick-fil-A and Target have sued a laundry list of chicken producers for price-fixing.
Chick-fil-A’s lawsuit, filed on Friday, implicated 17 different chicken suppliers, according to NBC News, including industry giants like Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Sanderson Farms, stating that “a number of Defendants communicated via phone and text message in order to share and coordinate confidential bidding and pricing information,” leading to prices that were “artificially inflated.”
Those same four companies—along with a mix of 16 other defendants—are named in Target’s lawsuit, as well, which was also filed last week according to the Star Tribune. Additionally, both Chick-fil-A and Target reportedly said they are joining a larger price-fixing class-action suit from 2016 backed by other major chicken retailers and restaurants like Aldi, Wawa, and Cracker Barrel.
Since investigations into price-fixing in the chicken industry have been ongoing, the accusations made in these new lawsuits don’t appear to be revelatory—focusing in part on how a supposedly anonymous spreadsheet called AgriStats allowed producers to track each other’s pricing activity. In fact, this past October, Pilgrim's Pride entered into a plea agreement to pay $110.5 million to the U.S. Department of Justice over price-fixing allegations.
It’s even possible that outcome may have encouraged this latest legal action. “Follow-on complaints like these are common in antitrust litigation,” Gary Mickelson, a spokesperson for Tyson Foods, was quoted as saying. “Such complaints do not change our position that the claims are unfounded. We will continue to vigorously defend our company."
Perdue Farms also reportedly brushed aside the allegations to NBC, with spokesperson Diana Souder saying of the Chick-fil-A lawsuit, "We believe these claims are unfounded and plan to contest the merits.”
Unfortunately, for consumers, all this corporate wrangling probably won’t help any of us who may have been overpaying for chicken products all these years. But hey, you knew those spicy chicken sandwiches were a splurge when you ordered them, right?