Ferguson doesn’t chicken out taking on poultry industry

By on Tuesday, October 26th, 2021 in Columbia Basin News More Top Stories

SEATTLE – Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson announced Tuesday he has filed a lawsuit against 19 chicken producers, including Tyson Foods Inc. and Foster Farms LLC, accusing them of a wide-ranging illegal conspiracy to inflate and manipulate prices, rig contract bids and coordinate industry supply reductions to maximize profits. Ferguson’s lawsuit also names an industry data reporting service accused of assisting in the conspiracy.

The 19 companies named in Ferguson’s lawsuit account for approximately 95 percent of the “broiler” chickens sold in the United States — a term for virtually all chicken produced for meat. Broiler chickens are used for everything from chicken breasts people purchase at the grocery store, to chicken nuggets and chicken sandwiches they buy at fast food restaurants.

An estimated 90 percent of Washington consumers — about 7 million Washingtonians — buy products derived from the chickens these companies produce. In addition, Washington businesses, colleges, hospitals, and nursing homes were impacted by the companies’ illegal conduct.

“If you’ve eaten chicken in the last decade, this conspiracy touched your wallet,” Ferguson said. “This conspiracy cost middle-class and low-income Washington families more money to put food on their table. I will hold these companies accountable for the profits they illegally made off the backs of hardworking Washington families.”

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, broiler chickens produced in the United States had a wholesale value of between $21 billion and $33 billion annually between 2008 to 2018.

Ferguson’s lawsuit, filed in King County Superior Court, accuses the companies of illegally engaging in a host of anticompetitive conduct to coordinate supply and manipulate pricing since at least 2008. Ferguson asserts their conduct violates the Washington Consumer Protection Act and Washington antitrust laws.

In addition to stopping the companies’ conduct, Ferguson is seeking restitution for Washington consumers and businesses and civil penalties. Ferguson asserts that Washington consumers and businesses overpaid millions of dollars for chicken due to the companies’ conduct. The companies also face millions in civil penalties over their violations.

Photo via Washington State Office of the Attorney General