Pilgrim’s Pride pleads guilty to price-fixing in chicken
The second-largest U.S. poultry processor, Pilgrim’s Pride, pleaded guilty in federal court in Denver to conspiring to fix prices of broiler meat and was sentenced to pay a criminal fine of $108 million, said the Justice Department on Tuesday. Pilgrim’s was the first company to settle charges in an alleged conspiracy that involved 10 officials from five processors.
According to the plea agreement, Pilgrim’s participated in the price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy from as early as 2012 and continuing until at least 2017 to suppress and eliminate competition in broiler meat sales. At least $361 million in Pilgrim’s sales were affected, said the Justice Department.
The price-fixing investigation is ongoing, said the Justice Department. “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,” said acting assistant attorney general Richard Powers of the Antitrust Division.
Tyson Foods, the largest poultry processor, is cooperating with the investigation. It said a month ago that it would pay $221.5 million to settle antitrust litigation that accused it of price fixing in the sale of broiler products.
In mid-January, Pilgrim’s said it would pay $75 million to settle a class-action lawsuit by some of its customers. Other price-fixing claims remained active in court.