Meat & Livestock News

Agri Stats Challenged by DoJ Over Alleged Anti-Competitive Meat Practices

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) has lodged a civil antitrust lawsuit against Indiana-based data provider Agri Stats. The lawsuit alleges that Agri Stats engaged in “anti-competitive” practices, which in certain instances resulted in elevated meat prices. 

The DoJ claims that Agri Stats, established in 1985, facilitated anti-competitive information exchanges among broiler chicken, pork, and turkey processors.

Agri Stats, which produces weekly and monthly reports for meat processors, has been accused by the DoJ of distributing competitively sensitive data concerning price, cost, and output among rival meat processors. 

According to the DoJ, these reports are utilised by processors to determine prices and output levels and encompass details on sales prices as well as compensation for workers and farmers. 

The lawsuit further contends that Agri Stats was aware that these reports were being used for anti-competitive objectives and even, on occasion, urged processors to increase prices and curtail supply.

Historically, US meat processors and foreign firms operating in the US have faced price-fixing allegations. Companies such as Tyson Foods, Hormel Foods, Cargill, Foster Farms, Perdue Farms, and the US division of Brazilian meat behemoth JBS have previously been implicated in such practices, with all the data supplied by Agri Stats. 

The recent lawsuit by the DoJ emphasises that the processors involved represented a significant portion of meat sales in the US.

Jonathan Kanter, the assistant attorney general of the DoJ’s Antitrust Division, reiterated the department’s commitment to safeguarding consumers from such purported practices, stating that the case is a continuation of the DoJ’s efforts to shield American consumers, farmers, and workers from anti-competitive actions in the agricultural sector.

Agri Stats defended its operations in response, emphasising its pivotal role in the US economy. The company highlighted its contribution to the surge in US protein production and the subsequent price decline. 

Agri Stats also pointed out that it had been previously investigated by the DoJ a decade ago, which concluded in 2012 without any action or recommendations for changes to its business operations.

The Biden administration has proactively enhanced competition in the US meat sector, especially as meat prices surged during recent inflationary periods. Last year, the White House committed to enforcing antitrust laws, increasing transparency in the meat-processing industry, and combating illegal price fixing.