SALT LAKE CITY – Utahns are noticing the price of their Thanksgiving Turkey this week. Today, our office is announcing that Utah Attorney General Sean D. Reyes has joined a lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice (U.S. DOJ) and several other states’ Attorneys General against Agri Stats, Inc. (Agri Stats), a company that organizes and manages anticompetitive information exchanges for meat processors across the United States. Filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Minnesota, the amended complaint alleges that Agri Stats generates weekly and monthly reports with thousands of competitively sensitive data points for subscribing broiler chicken, pork, and turkey meat processors. Agri Stats’ reports, according to the amended complaint, are used by meat processors to coordinate efforts to increase prices and reduce output, violating federal antitrust law.
“Meat processors should compete in a free market, not collude behind locked doors. For years, Utahns have paid too much for chicken, pork and turkey because Agri Stats throws gasoline on the fire of anticompetitive business practices,” said Attorney General Reyes. “This activity is illegal, harmful to our agriculture markets, and ultimately hurts Utah ranchers and families. It needs to stop.”
The U.S. DOJ filed its original complaint against Agri Stats on September 28, 2023. With this amended complaint, Utah is joining the U.S. DOJ’s effort to end Agri Stats’ anticompetitive conduct. Together, the attorneys general and U.S. DOJ allege that Agri Stats violated Section 1 of the Sherman Act. Participating meat processors have accounted for more than 90% of broiler chicken sales, 80% of pork sales and 90% of turkey sales in the United States.
In the amended complaint, the Attorneys General underscore that:
- Agri Stats’ information-sharing scheme hurts competition. Specifically, as part of Agri Stats’ “give to get” policy, subscribing meat processors share information about all aspects of their businesses with Agri Stats, including current costs, output, and prices. In exchange, Agri Stats audits and converts that information to common metrics that it distributes to subscribing meat processors in the form of weekly and monthly reports. Those reports enable meat processors to increase prices on items priced below their competitors with greater confidence that they will not lose sales to lower priced rivals. Meat processors pay Agri Stats millions of dollars for the reports.
- Agri Stats also goes a step further and tells subscribing meat processors how to use the weekly and monthly reports to weaken competition. Indeed, executives at some of the country’s largest meat processors testified that they could not recall any examples in which their companies used Agri Stats information to lower their sales prices to gain market share.
- Agri Stats refuses to sell the weekly and monthly reports to meat purchasers, farmers, workers, or consumers, thereby strengthening the advantage that subscribing meat processors gain by sharing information only with one another.
A copy of the second amended complaint is available here.