Federal Jury In Illinois Hits Egg Suppliers With $17.7 Million Penalty For Price Gouging Conspiracy

Image not from story (Photo by JOEL SAGET/AFP via Getty Images)

Mariane Angela Contributor
Font Size:

A federal jury in Illinois awarded $17.7 million in damages to several major food manufacturers in a high-profile antitrust lawsuit against top egg producers in the United States, CBS News reported Saturday.

The lawsuit centered on allegations of a conspiracy to artificially inflate egg prices, according to CBS News. The egg suppliers were found guilty of manipulating the domestic egg supply between 2004 and 2008. The plaintiffs saw the initial compensation of $17.7 million tripled to $53 million under federal antitrust regulations. The plaintiffs included Kraft Foods Global, Inc., Kellogg Company, General Mills, Inc., and Nestle USA, Inc.

The defendants, including major players like Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., United Egg Producers, Inc., and Rose Acre Farms, Inc., have been found responsible for employing tactics like limiting chicken numbers and exporting eggs to tighten domestic supply, thereby increasing prices, CBS News reported. (RELATED: Man Indicted For Price Gouging Disinfecting Wipes 461% During Pandemic)

Brandon Fox, who represented the food manufacturers, expressed gratitude for the jury’s findings. “We are extremely grateful for the jury’s service and findings. This was an important case for many reasons, and the jury’s award recognizes its significance,” Fox said in a statement, per CBS News.

Meanwhile, Rose Acre Farms, known as the second-largest U.S. egg producer, and Cal-Maine Foods, Inc., have expressed disappointment and denial of any wrongdoing, signaling intentions to seek legal redress.

“Rose Acre has and continues to steadfastly deny being part of any anticompetitive egg price fixing conspiracy, and we will continue to explore and consider all legal options, including post-trial relief and appeal,” Rose Acre Farms’ statement said, per CBS News.

“Cal-Maine Foods respects the jury’s decision and appreciates that the damages awarded by the jury are relatively modest compared to the damages sought but remains disappointed with the verdict as Cal-Maine Foods continues to believe that the Company did nothing wrong,” Cal-Maine Foods’ statement said, per CBS News.

This verdict comes at a politically charged time for John Rust, former chair of Rose Acre Farms and a current candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana, CBS News reported. Rust has vowed to appeal the jury’s decision. The controversy has spilled over into his political campaign, with Rust accusing his opponent, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks, of favoring large corporations over American farmers. Banks retorted sharply, questioning Rust’s credibility as a candidate.