No surprise, it’s not inflation: Big Chicken ordered to pay $181 million for fixing prices

The 2021 holiday season has not been a happy time for Big Chicken.

Just in time for Christmas, Judge Thomas M. Durkin approved agreements resolving “indirect purchaser” claims in the U.S. Court for the Northern District of Illinois.

The result – a $181 million class action settlement that includes a $99 million agreement with Tyson, $76 million with Pilgrim’s, and four settlements with smaller poultry processors worth a total $6 million.

Other defendants in the suit included Amick Farms, Case Farms, Claxton Poultry, Fieldale Farms, Foster Farms, George’s, Harrison Poultry, House of Raeford Farms, Koch Foods, Mar-Jac Poultry, Mountaire Farms, OK Foods, Peco Foods, Perdue Farms, Sanderson Farms, Simmons Foods and Wayne Farms.

When (greedy) class action lawyers asked for a $60 million fee, the judge put their outlandish request under review.

Other class actions, which began in 2016,  include livestock and protein, including beef, turkey, pork, tuna, salmon and eggs. Most allege price-fixing schemes, centering on unlawful exchanges of sensitive information through Agri Stats Inc.

Meanwhile, the ten current and former chicken executives, charged in another court, managed a mistrial to escape imminent punishment. They are also facing claims they conspired to drive down pay for chicken farmers and their largely immigrant workforce.

Case Farms is just one example of the treatment of foreign workers, and in 2017 the New Yorker’s Mike Grabell investigated abuses there:

When workers arrived, they encountered a situation that a federal judge later called ‘wretched and loathsome’. They were packed in small houses with about twenty other people, Grabell reported.

Although it was the middle of winter, the houses had no heat, furniture or blankets. One worker said that his house had no water, so he flushed the toilet with melted snow.

They slept on the floor, where cockroaches crawled over them. At dawn, they rode to the plant in a dilapidated van, whose seating consisted of wooden planks resting on cinder blocks. Exhaust fumes seeped in through holes in the floor.

In 2015, for example, federal safety inspectors fined the company some two million dollars for workplace violations.

Today, Case seems to have reformed and improved conditions, boasting months without accidents and increased safety conditions.

The next time you are told food price inflation is a result of “multiple factors”, consider the real cause could be corrupt companies colluding to pluck your pockets.

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