A federal judge has dismissed a longrunning lawsuit alleging an industry-wide scheme to fix beef prices in the U.S., bringing relief to meatpacking giants Cargill Inc., JBS SA, Tyson Foods Inc., National Beef Packing Co., and Swift Beef Co.
The claims were made by a putative class of cattle ranchers who indirectly sell them cattle via intermediaries. The ranchers alleged in an October 2022 lawsuit that the meatpacking giants were deliberately manipulating the volume of beef on the market to increase prices. According to the ranchers, this had caused a severe decrease in the supply of beef in 2015.
The meatpackers were accused of violating the Sherman Act’s provisions against price-fixing and market allocation and the Packers and Stockyards Act in addition to two sets of state antitrust and consumer protection laws. US District Court for the District of Minnesota Judge John R. Tunheim dismissed the claims, however, stating that the ranchers had failed to establish adequate standing for their case. “They did not plausibly allege a causal relationship between Defendants’ conduct and their injury, or that their injury and damages are in fact traceable to Defendants’ actions,” he decreed.
He also added that there are too many stages in the beef supply chain and too much time between the ranchers’ sale of cows and the meatpackers’ purchase of them, to grant the requested standing for the Sherman Act and Packer and Stockyards claims. Judge Tunheim dismissed the charges of the meatpackers under the various state laws, and denied the ranchers leave to amend the complaint. Though the court has yet to decide whether to grant leave to amend, it has promised to consider any plans proposed by the ranchers to combat the standing issues.
The federal judge’s decision will come as a relief to the meatpacking giants, who have faced years of litigation for their alleged market manipulation. The future, however, remains uncertain as the ranchers continue to fight for justice.
Source: News Bloomberg Law