By Imani Moise
(Reuters) – U.S. fast-food restaurant chain Chick-fil-A sued top chicken suppliers alleging they artificially raised prices on billions of dollars of its purchases in the latest litigation facing the poultry industry.
The lawsuit filed Friday names 17 defendants including Perdue Farms, Tyson Foods Inc, Pilgrim’s Pride and Sanderson Farms Inc alleging they shared bids and pricing details, leading the Atlanta-based restaurant chain to overpay for supplies.
The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted 10 industry executives in separate cases this year and several suppliers have faced lawsuits alleging conspiracy to inflate broiler chicken prices from grocers, retailers and consumers. Broiler chickens account for most chicken meat sold in the United States.
In October, Pilgrim’s Pride, which is mostly owned by Brazilian meatpacker JBS SA, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to limit competition in chicken product sales and paid a $110.5 million fine.
“We believe these claims are unfounded and plan to contest the merits,” said spokeswoman for Perdue Andrea Staub.
Representatives for Tyson, Pilgrim’s Pride and Sanderson Farms did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Chick-fil-A, best known for its fried chicken sandwiches, is seeking unspecified damages and to recoup its legal expenses.
(Reporting by Imani Moise; Editing by Christopher Cushing)