ORLANDO, FLA. – Darden Restaurants Inc., parent company of Olive Garden, Cheddar’s Scratch Kitchen and Longhorn Steakhouse, has filed an antitrust suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois alleging multiple poultry companies engaged in price fixing, according to court records. The latest complaint was filed on Jan. 25, 2019, against 34 different defendants including Tyson Foods Inc., Fieldale Farms, Sanderson Farms Inc., Koch Pilgrim’s Pride Corp. and others. Darden’s case alleges “illegal conspiracy which increased the prices of chicken sold in the United States,” according to court records.
Darden is opting out of the original class-action lawsuit, originally filed in September 2016 (Maplevale Farms Inc. v. Koch Foods Inc. et al, case number 1:16-cv-08637), which alleged that major companies used coordinated supply restrictions to manipulate prices for broiler chickens. By filing on its own behalf, Darden said, “The company is doing what it believes is tin the best interest of the business and its shareholders.”
The lawsuit also claims the companies shared price and product information provided by AgriStats Inc. — which also was named in the lawsuit — to fix the Georgia Dock broiler price index, according to court documents.
“Follow-on complaints like these are common in antitrust litigation," said a spokesperson from Tyson. "Such complaints do not change our position that the claims are unfounded. We will continue to vigorously defend our company.”
This past June, another faction opted out of the class-action suit when a group of meat distributors and grocery companies filed a federal antitrust lawsuit of its own (Action Meat Distributors, Inc. et al v. Norman W. Fries, Inc., d/b/a Claxton Poultry Farms, Inc. et al, case number 1:18-cv-03471) in the same district court, alleging a “cartel” of U.S. chicken producers illegally raised the price of broiler chickens from at least Jan. 1, 2008, through Dec. 31, 2016.
This past November, attorneys for Fieldale Farms and plaintiffs filed a motion to approve a settlement from the company to release it from the lawsuit.