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DOJ To Probe Chicken Producers Over Wage Info

 |  March 4, 2022

The US Justice Dept has said it may probe chicken producers in order to determine whether they were engaged in alleged anticompetitive practices, reported The Wall Street Journal. 

Poultry producers are suspected of improperly sharing information regarding employment practices that may have hurt workers wages. The civil investigation is looking at several major companies, according to the report, which cited people familiar with the case.

Pilgrim’s Pride, the second-largest US chicken company by sales volume, recently said in its annual securities filing that it had been notified by the Justice Department in February that the agency would be launching a civil antitrust investigation into human resources issues. The Colorado-based poultry giant said in the filing that it was planning to cooperate with the investigation.

It is too early to know if the probe, which is still at a preliminary stage, will lead to concrete actions or recommendations from the DOJ.

The Justice Department has been looking broadly into alleged antitrust issues in the US meatpacking industry for several years, ranging from charging chicken executives with engaging in price fixing schemes to examining meatpackers’ activities in the beef and chicken markets. The Biden administration has said that the US meat industry uses its scale to inflate Americans’ food bills, and farm groups have accused meat companies of using their market power to keep livestock prices artificially low.

The new investigation into poultry companies’ employment communications comes as the Justice Department has been placing greater emphasis on challenging alleged anticompetitive conduct that it sees as limiting opportunities and compensation in labor markets. Recent cases include challenges to alleged practices in the aerospace and healthcare industries, such as alleged agreements by employers not to recruit one another’s workers.

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