Grocery store operators are filing a lawsuit against the pork industry for allegedly conspiring in controlling the industry and raising prices.

According to Law Street Media, grocers such as Hy-Vee, Kroger, Albertsons, and U.S. Foods are accusing pork processors of conspiring prices of meat sold to them between 2009 and 2018.

Hormel, JBS USA, Seaboard Foods, Smithfield, Triumph, and Tyson were among the 13 companies facing the lawsuit.

The plaintiffs have alleged the defendants are vertically integrated companies

To control directly the production and supply of pork through their wholly-owned and operated farms, where hogs were raised, fed, and prepared for slaughter.

According to the plaintiffs, the pork producers control the number of hogs and sows as part of an effort to minimize production and raise prices by reducing the number of hog farms by 70 percent.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court of Northern California in December. The petitioners claim Agri Stats, an agriculture industry data provider, is a key player in the conspiracy. According to Law Street Media

Agri Stats was key to the formation, operation, and continuing stability of the conspiracy alleged, [which allowed] the conspiracy [to] be effective in increasing, maintaining, stabilizing and/or fixing the price of pork sold to Plaintiffs.

Price Fixing

This isn’t the first-time big pork producers/ packers have been under fire. In March, JBS USA Food Company settled an anti-trust case. Court documents said JBS was to pay $24.5 million into an escrow account within 14 days of the court’s approval. These funds would then be used to compensate direct purchasers “for damages suffered and expenses accrued including attorneys’ fees, litigation expenses, and the costs of notice.” This deal did not cover other claims made against JBS by seven other plaintiffs.

In April 2021, JBS paid $12.75 million in a pork price-fixing class action led by restaurants and retailers. JBS exited the anti-trust case with settlements totaling $45 million.

In June 2021, Smithfield Foods settled litigation that accused them of being part of a conspiracy inflating pork prices. Smithfield Foods paid out $83 million in the settlement.

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