Minnesota joins United States’ antitrust lawsuit against Agri Stats for operating extensive information exchanges among meat processors
Lawsuit alleges that Agri Stats helps big meat processors coordinate to artificially inflate the price of food
November 6, 2023 (SAINT PAUL) — Today, Attorney General Keith Ellison, on behalf of the State of Minnesota, led a bipartisan coalition of states in joining the United States’ civil antitrust lawsuit against Agri Stats, Inc. for organizing and managing anticompetitive information exchanges among broiler chicken, pork and turkey processors. The lawsuit alleges that Agri Stats violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act by collecting, integrating, and distributing competitively sensitive information related to price, cost, and output among competing meat processors, which has resulted in higher prices for American consumers.
“Minnesotans should be able to trust that they are getting a fair price for the food they buy to feed themselves and their families,” said Attorney General Ellison. "A big reason why our paychecks aren’t covering as much as they used to is because corporate profiteers are manipulating markets to line their pockets and stifle competition. Agri Stats’ illegal information sharing makes it harder for people to afford their lives by helping big meat processors coordinate with one another to keep food prices artificially high. We are suing to stop this anticompetitive behavior and keep the prices you see at the grocery store competitive.”
The lawsuit, filed in the District of Minnesota, alleges that Agri Stats has for years produced comprehensive weekly and monthly reports for participating meat processors, which use the data to set prices and output levels. Spanning hundreds of pages, Agri Stats’ reports contain recent data relating to sales prices, costs, such as worker and farmer compensation, and output that are often detailed by facility or company. Participating processors have accounted for more than 90% of broiler chicken sales, 80% of pork sales, and 90% of turkey sales in the United States.
The lawsuit alleges that Agri Stats understood that meat processors have used Agri Stats’ reports for anticompetitive purposes and, in some instances, even encouraged meat processors to raise prices and reduce supply. Although Agri Stats distributes troves of competitively sensitive information among participating processors, Agri Stats withholds its reports from meat purchasers, workers, and American consumers. This imbalance of market knowledge further exacerbates the competitive harm of Agri Stats’ information exchanges.
The lawsuit further alleges that Agri Stats’ scheme continues to this day in the chicken processing industry, among others. Although Agri Stats paused its turkey and pork reporting after facing several private antitrust lawsuits, Agri Stats has expressed an intent to resume such reporting after these lawsuits end. In addition to Minnesota, the States of California, Tennessee, and North Carolina joined the lawsuit as plaintiffs.
Joining the antitrust lawsuit against Agri Stats continues the Minnesota Attorney General’s investment in antitrust enforcement work to ensure fair competition, especially with respect to agriculture and issues affecting rural communities.
- Attorney General Ellison joined the new USDA Agriculture Competition Partnership , a partnership between USDA and a group of bipartisan attorneys general in 31 states and the District of Columbia to enhance competition and protect consumers in food and agriculture markets;
- Attorney General Ellison is part of a bipartisan coalition of 10 State AGs that joined the FTC in suing Syngenta and Corteva for anticompetitive ‘loyalty programs’ that reduce competition and increase prices of pesticides; and
- Attorney General Ellison led a bipartisan coalitions of State AGs to strengthen USDA competition rules to make it easier for small farmers to compete for fair pricing terms from large meat processors.
Attorney General Ellison encourages Minnesota consumers and businesses who wish to report concerns about antitrust business practices to submit a report online via the Antitrust Report Form or call the Attorney General’s Office at (651) 296-3353 (Metro area), (800) 657-3787 (Greater Minnesota), or (800) 627-3529 (Minnesota Relay).