Pilgrim's Pride Class Action Certified Over Chicken Farmer Pay

Pilgrim's Pride Chicken Farmer Class Action

Thousands of Chicken Growers Allege No-Poach Agreement Suppressed Wages

A class action lawsuit alleges multi-national chicken producer Pilgrim’s Pride created an anti-competitive environment in which chicken farmers didn’t get paid what they deserved.

Now, an Oklahoma federal judge has given plaintiffs in the lawsuit the green-light to represent more than 24,000 farmers who say they were harmed.

U.S. District Judge Robert J. Shelby certified a class of about 24,354 chicken growers last month in the lawsuit against Pilgrim’s Pride, which is being heard in an Oklahoma federal court.

According to the class action, a Pilgrim’s Pride no-poach agreement with other chicken producers unfairly limited the pay of chicken farmers by snuffing out competition for their services.

Growers get less without competition, lawsuit alleges

Included in the certified class are chicken broiler growers who provided chickens to Pilgrim’s Pride or any of its 20 alleged co-conspirators with an overarching no-poach agreement, Judge Shelby ruled.

The lawsuit alleges that Pilgrim’s Pride conspired with other chicken producers that they would not compete for chickens from the same growers. Growers work with producers to provide land and labor to raise chickens until they are ready for slaughter.

“Without the risk of a competitor poaching a [producer’s chicken supplier] by offering higher compensation, the effect of the [non-poach agreement] according to plaintiffs, was to artificially suppress grower pay through reduced competition,” the class action says.

The certification of the class action lawsuit came after more than seven years of litigation, Reuters reports. Pilgrim’s Pride is the only defendant still remaining in the case, after other companies including Tyson Foods, Koch and Perdue Foods settled for tens of millions of dollars in recent years. Each of the companies denies wrongdoing.

Chicken farmers seek millions in compensation

Shelby agreed to certify the class of chicken growers, saying they have common, consistent claims.

A group of the growers alleged, in five lawsuits that were consolidated, that the major poultry companies had violated antitrust law since at least 2008 by conspiring to suppress their pay nationwide. They said the producers also schemed to limit employee mobility. 

The growers are seeking combined damages of between $761 and $924 million, according to Shelby’s order.

Case Details

  • Lawsuit: In re: Boiler Chicken Grower Antitrust Litigation
  • Case Number: 6:20-md-02977-RJS-CMR
  • Court: U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Oklahoma

Plaintiffs' Attorneys

  • Hausfeld LLP
  • Berger Montague

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