Chicken Producer Pleads Guilty To Price Fixing, Set To Pay Out Over $100 Million

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Andrew Jose Contributor
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A Colorado-based poultry producer will pay nearly $107 million in criminal fines after pleading guilty for anti-competitive practices, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Tuesday.

Pilgrim’s Pride, a major broiler chicken producer, acknowledged that they had taken part in a conspiracy to reduce and “eliminate” competition for products in the United States from early 2012 to 2017, a DOJ press release stated.

The company pled guilty to conspiring to fix prices and rig bids for chicken products. The conspiracy had affected roughly $361 million in Pilgrim’s broiler chicken product sales, including its sales to fast food giant Kentucky Fried Chicken, according to the plea agreement.

Pilgrim’s Chief Executive Officer Fabio Sandri made the guilty plea on behalf of the company at a hearing in Denver before U.S. District Judge Raymond Moore, Reuters reported.

“Today’s guilty plea demonstrates our unwavering commitment to prosecuting companies that violate the nation’s antitrust laws, especially when it involves something as central to everyday life as the food we eat,” the DOJ’s Antitrust Division’s Acting Assistant Attorney General, Richard Powers said in the statement.

Prior to Pilgrim’s guilty plea, 10 executives from the poultry industry, including former Pilgrim’s Pride CEOs Jayson Penn and Bill Lovette, faced indictments on price-fixing charges, Reuters reported. None of the ten had pled guilty.

Pilgrim’s Pride, owned mainly by the Brazilian meatpacking company JBS SA, is one of the U.S.’ largest poultry product producers, according to Reuters. (RELATED: Key West, Florida, Prepares Legislation Against Chickens)

The DOJ’s Antitrust Division with assistance from the U.S. Department of Commerce Office Of Inspector General, FBI Washington Field Office, and United States Department of Agriculture Office Of Inspector General, is undertaking an ongoing federal antitrust investigation into price fixing, bid rigging, and other anticompetitive behavior in the poultry industry.

Other poultry products producers such as Tyson, Perdue Farms, and Sanderson Farms, face similar federal lawsuits in Chicago over alleged rigging of prices going back to 2008, Reuters reported.