Judge rejects motion to dismiss class action on turkey pricing

Judge rejects motion to dismiss class action on turkey pricing

A federal judge has declined to dismiss an antitrust case against several turkey suppliers including Minnesota companies Cargill and Hormel Foods Corp.

The lawsuit alleges that large turkey producers shared “competitively sensitive information” to limit the supply of turkeys and fix prices.

US District Judge Virginia Kendall issued her order denying dismissal of the class action case on Monday. The case is being heard in the federal Northern District of Illinois.

“When the allegations are considered as a whole, plaintiffs’ claims give rise to an inference of a price-fixing conspiracy sufficient to state a claim and survive the motion to dismiss,” Kendall said in the order.

Representatives of Cargill and Hormel could not be reached for comment.

The turkey suppliers moved to dismiss the case in March, arguing that the litigants had failed to establish evidence to support the price-fixing allegation.

The case has a three-year history so far. The original complaint, filed in December 2019, named 11 turkey suppliers as defendants including well-known names like North Carolina-based Butterball.

The original lead plaintiff was New York-based Olean Wholesale Grocery Cooperative. The most prominent name among the multiple plaintiffs is now Florida-based Winn-Dixie Stores, a grocery chain in the Southeast US.

The plaintiffs have argued that the turkey industry is highly concentrated, dominated by a small number of large producers.

One of the previous defendants, Arkansas-based Tyson Foods, settled its case for $4.6 million in May 2021.

Kendall’s order did dismiss the claims against one defendant, Prestage Farms, which has operations in 5 states including Iowa.

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