Executives of chicken producers Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton Poultry Farms were indicted on Wednesday for allegedly conspiring to fix prices, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The indictment, the first charges in an ongoing Justice Department antitrust investigation, claims that the companies conspired to fix prices on chicken sold to restaurants and grocery stores from 2012 to 2017. Pilgrim’s Pride, based in Colorado, is the second largest chicken producer in the U.S.
Pilgrim’s Pride chief executive Jayson Penn and former Vice President Roger Austin, as well as Georgia-based company Claxton Poultry Farms’s president, Mikell Fries, and vice president, Scott Brady, were indicted.
Wholesale chicken prices increased by 11 percent from 2012 through 2018 and fell by 27 percent from 2019 to 2020, according to Department of Agriculture data on national prices.
The Justice Department opened the antitrust investigation into chicken producers in June 2019.
Pilgrim’s Pride represents about 17 percent of the U.S. chicken market and produces about 13 billion pounds of chicken annually. Claxton Poultry Farms produces about 300 million pounds of chicken annually.