JBS has agreed to pay $25 million to a group of commercial beef purchasers that accused the meat packing company of conspiring with other packers to restrict the supply of beef to the market in order to keep prices artificially high.
The proposed settlement is the second in the U.S. concerning beef price-fixing. It was disclosed in federal court in Minnesota last week from plaintiffs’ lawyers representing a class of businesses that bought beef for food preparation since 2015. The settlement does still require approval from the judge.
This settlement follows a previous agreement involving JBS from February of 2022 when the company agreed to pay $52.5 million to direct beef purchasers, including grocers. The company has not admitted any liability or wrongdoing to this point.
The latest settlement requires JBS to cooperate in ongoing cases against companies that have settled yet, such as Cargill, Tyson Foods and National Beef.
One week prior, U.S. District Judge John Tunheim approved a $75 million settlement between pork consumers and Smithfield Foods for conspiring to restrict pork supplies. Pork consumers last year settled with JBS for $20 million. Justice Tunheim is overseeing both cases.
This will not be the end of litigation concerning beef price-fixing. Similar cases have been filed by nearly every segment of the beef supply chain. R-CALF USA and National Farmers Union are engaged in litigation representing ranchers.
The nation’s largest food distributor, Sysco, filed a lawsuit last summer. Large retailers and wholesalers including Kroger, Hy-vee, and Albertson’s were consolidated into the class action lawsuit in November of 2022. A month later, fast food restaurant chains such as Arby’s, Hardee’s, Burger King and Sonic filed lawsuits in U.S. District Court in Florida.
At the behest of ranchers and state Attorneys General in May of 2020, the Trump Administration directed the Department of Justice to investigate possible wrongdoing and antitrust violations by packers in the cattle markets. No charges or announcements have been released despite the Biden Administration keeping a similar focus on antitrust in the meat industry.
Northern Ag Network/Reuters
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