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2 more lawsuits accuse chicken producers of fixing prices

Two major food distributors have filed their own federal lawsuits accusing Tyson Foods and other major chicken producers of fixing prices, but the industry denies any wrongdoing.

The lawsuits filed this week in Illinois by Sysco Corp and US Foods Holding Corp. join several other lawsuits pending against the chicken producers. The allegations date back at least to a 2016 lawsuit filed by New York-based Maplevale Farms.

The lawsuits accuse chicken producers of working together to reduce the supply of chickens and also coordinating efforts to set the retail price for them between 2008 and 2016.

Tyson plans to continue defending its actions, Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson said. The Springdale, Arkansas-based company believes the claims are unfounded, he said.

Representatives of Pilgrim’s Pride and Sanderson Farms didn’t respond immediately Thursday.

In documents filed in response to one of the other antitrust lawsuits, Sanderson Farms said it expanded chicken production during the time at issue. The company’s lawyers said Sanderson invested $100 million in three new production facilities and increased its market share — making it an unlikely member of a conspiracy to reduce production.

A separate lawsuit making similar allegations was filed last month by grocer Winn-Dixie.

The lawsuits say the companies coordinated efforts to destroy breeder hens in 2008 and again in 2011 and 2012. The reduced supply led to higher prices.

In addition, the lawsuits said the companies exchanged competitively sensitive, non-public information about prices, sales volume and demand.

The lawsuits filed this week note that one of the defendants in a related case agreed to a $2.25 million settlement, and the Florida Attorney General’s office has said it is investigating the industry.

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