Meat & Livestock News

North Carolina Farmer Challenges Poultry Processor in Court


  • A North Carolina farmer has filed a lawsuit against Case Farms, accusing the poultry processor of unfair practices under the “tournament system” which affects compensation and increases risks for growers.
  • The lawsuit claims Case Farms manipulates the system, causing financial harm to farmers by controlling all aspects of chicken farming.
  • This legal action follows a Department of Justice lawsuit against Koch Foods for contract issues and USDA’s new rules to enhance transparency and fairness in poultry grower contracts.

In a recent legal move that shines a light on the contentious relationship between poultry processors and chicken farmers, a North Carolina farmer has taken Case Farms to court. The lawsuit, filed last week in a federal court, accuses the processor of imposing unfair and deceptive practices through its contracts with farmers.

Randy Black, the farmer behind the lawsuit, argues that Case Farms’ “tournament system” for compensating growers is rigged against them. This system, which ranks farmers based on performance criteria, allegedly leads to unpredictable and unjust financial outcomes for the growers.

Black’s lawsuit contends that while Case Farms dictates every aspect of the farming process—from the chickens’ genetics to their diet and living conditions—the farmers are left to shoulder the substantial risks and debts that come with these stringent requirements.

Moreover, the lawsuit accuses Case Farms of hiding the true impact of the tournament system on farmers’ livelihoods and maintaining an unjust grip over the entire broiler chicken production chain.

This case emerges amidst broader scrutiny of processor-farmer contracts in the poultry industry. Notably, in November, the Department of Justice initiated a civil lawsuit against Koch Foods, citing that the exit penalties imposed on chicken farmers breached federal antitrust laws.

In response to growing concerns over the fairness of these agreements, USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced new regulations under the Packers and Stockyards Act. These rules are designed to bolster contract poultry growers by ensuring greater transparency and equity in their dealings with major processors.

As of now, Case Farms has yet to publicly comment on the allegations made in Randy Black’s lawsuit.