McDonald’s says it plans to join a chicken price-fixing lawsuit

The burger giant filed a lawsuit against chicken producers indicating it planned to join litigation alleging a years-long effort to fix chicken prices.
McDonald's chicken lawsuit
Photo by Jonathan Maze

McDonald’s is adding its name to a massive list of restaurants, grocers and other food companies suing poultry producers over what they say is a years-long scheme to fix the price of chicken.

The Chicago-based burger giant filed a lawsuit in a federal district court in Illinois against numerous chicken producers, including Pilgrim’s Pride, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Foods, among others, saying it intended to join the Broiler Antitrust Litigation.

That litigation includes a huge number of companies that argue these chicken producers have been plotting for years to fix prices—an allegation that has been levied against other meat producers such as pork and beef companies.

Among companies that have joined the lawsuit, which dates back to 2016 and was initially filed by Maplevale Farms, is Chick-fil-A, Darden Restaurants, Checkers Restaurants and Hooters. Sysco and US Foods, as well as several major grocers along with Walmart, are also among plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

The charges argue that these companies used a price information service between 2008 and 2019 that enabled them to cut production of broilers and fix their prices. The allegations have led to charges against at least 10 executives and both Tyson and Pilgrim’s have agreed to make payments to settle the allegations.

McDonald’s told franchisees back in April that it planned to join the price-fixing lawsuit against poultry producers. “McDonald’s intends to take certain steps it believes are necessary to try to recover some of the damages that McDonald’s may have experienced,” the company told operators at the time.

By filing the lawsuit, McDonald’s could join in the settlements of the claims as both an indirect and a direct purchaser of chicken. The company has indicated it could share whatever funds it receives with franchisees while giving them the option of pursuing their own claims.

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