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Alice Welsh, USDA

Federal grand jury indicts meat processor execs on collusion, price fixing

News Staff - June 4, 2020

GREELEY, CO – As the U.S. cattle industry continues a decades-long battle with the beef packing industry amid charges of collusion and price-fixing, the CEO of the second-largest chicken processing corporation in the U.S. has been indicted by a federal grand jury.

Jayson Penn is one of four current and former chicken company executives from Pilgrim’s Pride indicted this week on charges of price-fixing. Others are Roger Austin, a former Pilgrim’s vice president; the president of Claxton Poultry, Mikell Fries; and Scott Brady, a vice president at Claxton.

Pilgrim's Pride Corporation is a multi-national food company and is majority-owned by Brazilian meat giant JBS that has become increasingly active in the American food sector during the past dozen years.

The U.S. Department of Justice said a federal grand jury in Colorado found that executives from Greeley, Colo.-based Pilgrim’s Pride and Claxton, Ga.-based Claxton Poultry Farms conspired to fix prices and rig bids for broiler chickens from at least 2012 to 2017 and cites executives’ text messages and emails.

The indictments are the first from a Department of Justice investigation following lawsuits filed by restaurant companies and other poultry buyers starting in 2016 accusing the major poultry producers in the U.S. – Pilgrim’s Pride, Tyson Foods, Sanderson Farms and Perdue Farms – of colluding to inflate prices.

“Executives who cheat American consumers, restaurateurs, and grocers, and compromise the integrity of our food supply, will be held responsible for their actions,” said Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim, head of the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division.

All four companies deny the allegations in the private lawsuits.

Just last month, 11 state attorneys general in the Midwest asked the Justice Department to investigate potential price fixing by U.S. beef packers – including JBS USA.

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