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- The U.S. Justice Department has launched a criminal investigation into allegations that top poultry processors colluded to keep prices artificially high.
- The probe came to light after federal attorneys sought to intervene in a long-running lawsuit in which customers accused chicken processors, including Tyson Foods Inc., Pilgrim’s Pride Corp., Sanderson Farms Inc. and Perdue Farms Inc., of illegally cooperating. The processors have denied the accusations.
- The government asked a federal judge in Illinois to halt evidence-collection in the suit for six months to protect a grand jury investigation into the matter, lawyers from the department wrote in a motion filed Friday in Chicago. A ruling is expected Thursday.
- Plaintiffs ranging from independent restaurateurs to Walmart Inc. and food distributors such as Sysco Corp. have sued chicken companies over the last three years, alleging they improperly shared data and influenced meat-industry benchmarks to push up chicken-meat prices.
- Meat companies have denied claims that they cooperated to boost prices, attributing higher prices to stronger demand and reduced production after a tough period for the U.S. poultry industry in the late 2000s.