The US government, as part of an examination into the chicken industry, is trying to intervene in a price-fixing suit brought against the country’s biggest chicken producers.
The Justice Department had announced Tyson in April that it convened a grand jury and called the company to provide evidence. On Friday, department lawyers asked a judge to stop evidence collection in the lawsuit for six months to assure the integrity of the grand jury’s research. The Justice Department, in its court filing on Friday, said it’s pursuing an examination similar to the civil complaint.
The underlying case was brought in September 2016 by Maplevale Farms, a New York food service seller.
According to its complaint, Maplevale claims that 28 chicken companies “conspired and combined to fix, raise, maintain, and maintain the price of broilers,” which are the predominant type of chickens raised for production in the United States. Maplevale alleges the chicken producers adjusted their output and limited chicken production with the intent to raise prices.
The motion was announced earlier by the Food and Environment Reporting Network and the Wall Street Journal.
Walmart (WMT) joined the conflict last month, using many of the same chicken companies. Walmart accused the chicken companies of killing hatchlings to raise prices and ramping up production once prices reached a level they were satisfied with. It is unclear under what law Walmart is objecting. Food distribution giant Sysco (SYSCO) also sued the poultry companies last year.
Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson and Perdue collectively control 51% of the chicken industry.
In a statement on Tuesday, Tyson said the Justice Department’s request to intervene in the Maplevale Farms “does not change our view that there is simply no benefit to the allegations that Tyson Foods planned with competitors. We remain dedicated to vigorously defending ourselves against these baseless allegations.”