Several large U.S. pork companies, including Hormel Foods Corp., Smithfield Foods, Inc., and Tyson Foods Inc., were hit with an antitrust lawsuit this week alleging that they conspire to inflate pork prices in an effort to boost profit at consumers’ expense. The complaint alleges the collusion has been going on since 2009.
Thirteen individual consumers from around the country are seeking class-action status and a variety of damages for alleged overcharges in the suit that was filed with the federal court in Minnesota. According to the complaint, U.S. pork sales totaled $18.9 billion in 2016, and the defendants and their co-conspirators control more than 80 percent of the wholesale market.
The case appears similar to litigation in federal court in Illinois where consumers accused many companies, including Tyson, of conspiring to fix broiler chicken prices. According to Thursday’s complaint, the pork conspiracy began when the defendant Agri Stats Inc. began giving pork companies “benchmarking” reports, which typically allow comparisons of profits and performance. The complaint says Agri Stats went farther, offering “sensitive” data on costs, prices and slaughter rates and the ability to decipher which data belonged to which companies. Plaintiffs allege this permitted the pork companies to monitor each other’s production, and as a result control supply and price.
Agri Stats is also a defendant in the broiler chicken case.
The case is Duryea et al v. Agri Stats Inc et al., U.S. District Court, District of Minnesota, No. 18-01776.